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CRYPTOGRAPHY 

OR 

THE HISTORY, PRINCIPLES, AND PRACTICE OF 
CIPHER-WRITING 



w 




>TOGRA 

OR 

The History, Principles, and Practice 

OF 

CIPHER-WRITING 



e<^ BY 

Fl^EDWARD HULME, F.L.S., F.S.A 

U\ 

AUTHOR OF "familiar WILD FLOWERS," " MYTHLAND," 
" NATURAL HISTORY LORE AND LEGEND," 

"the birth and development OF 

ORNAMENT," " WAYSIDK 
SKETCHES," ETC 



Heres noiv mystery and hieroglyphic ^ 

Ben Jonson — The Alchemy si. 




LONDON 
WARWICK HOUSE, SALISBURY SQUARE, E.C 

NEW YORK AND MELBOURNE 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I 

PAGE 

Meaning of cryptography — Objections to its study — Its 
legitimate use and value — Historic examples of its 
employment — Deliglit in the mysterious — Many other 
ways of conveying secret information — Symbolism of 
action — The spoken word imprisoned and dispatched 
— A matter not necessarily secret because one cannot 
understand it — Egyptian hieroglypliics — Chinese 
characters — Indian mutiny Greek — Ancient Biblical 
cryptogram — Sheshach of Jeremiah — Sir Henry 
Eawlinson thereon — Statements for and against — 
Julius Caesar's secret code — The waxed tablet of 
Demaratus — Difference between hidden and secret 
writing — The shaven head a writing tablet — Charle- 
magne and Alfred the Great as cryptographic experts 
— Mediaeval authorities — Trithemius the Benedictine 
— " Steganographia " — Dabbling in the black art — 
Dr. Dee — Batista Porta's book on "Natural Majick" 
— Invisible writing — Chemical methods by vitriol, 
alum, etc. — Writing on glass or crystal — Papal In- 
quisition — Disappearing writing — Messages wrapped 
round rollers— Two methods — A slave's back the 
writing surface — Chemical methods of no great value 
ordinarily — Disadvantages of use — Action of light 
and heat— Chloride of cobalt, sulphate of copper, etc. 
— Often impossible to procure the materials . .11 

5 



6 CONTENTS 

CHAPTER II 

PAGE 

Ancient use of arbitrary symbols — Tyroiiian abbreviations 
— Early works on shorthand— Excessive abbreviation 
of inscriptions on coins, etc. — Telegram-English — 
Mason-marks— Rise of cipher-writing in England — 
Clarendon's " History of the Rebellion " — Battle of 
Naseby — Royal correspondence captured and de- 
ciphered — Published by Parliament — Weighted naval 
signal-codes — Charles I. a great expert in crypto- 
graphy — Use of nulles or non-significants — Numeri- 
cal ciphers — Mediaeval inscription without vowels — 
Ciphers of Queen Henrietta and Sir Ralph Yerney — 
Great use of cipher at troublous periods of history 
— The " Century of Inventions " of the Marquis of 
Worcester — Birth of the steam-engine — Dedication 
of his labours to the nation — His numerous sugges- 
tions for cryptograms— The "disk" cryptogram- 
Principle modified to sliding strip — Bead alphabet — 
Heraldic representation of colours in black and white 
— The "string" cipher — Bacon a cryptographic en- 
thusiast— His essentials of a good cipher— His 
highest perfection of a cipher — His plan cumbrous 
and unsatisfactory — A Trithemian example — 
Elizabethan arbitrary mark ciphers — No real mystery 
in them 61 



CHAPTER III 

Is an undecipherable cryptogram possible? — The art of 
deciphering — Keys for the analysis of a cryptogram 
— Oft recurring letters— Great repetition of vowels 
^Patient perseverance— Papers on the subject in 
Gentleman's Magazine of 1742— "Value of general 
knowledge— Conrad's rules— The letter E—" Noughts 
and crosses " cryptogram — Its construction — Ciphers 
from agony columns of Standard and Tmies— Prying 
busybodies — Alternate letters significant— Ciphers 



CONTENTS 7 

PAGE 

based oii divers shiftings of the letters — Cryptogram 
in Cocker's " Arithmetick " — Inventor in 1761 of 
supposed absolutely secret system — His hopes and 
fears thereon— Illegal to publish Parliamentary de- 
bates—Evasion of the law— Poe's use of cryptogram 
in story — Secret marks made by tramps and vag- 
rants—Shop ciphers for marking prices on goods — 
Cryptogrammic trade advertisements -Examples of 
cipher construction — The "grill" cipher — The "rc- 
Tolviug grill" — The "slip-card" — Forms of numeri- 
cal cipher — The " Mirabeau " — Count Grousfield's 
cipher — Communication by nse of a dictionary — The 
" Newark "—The " Clock-hands "—The " two-word " 
cipher — Conclusion 108 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

FIG. TAGE 

1. Message wrapped round a Ruler . . . 4G 

2.. Ditto Illegible through Use of Wrong Ruler 48 

3. Message Unwrapped from Roller . . .48 

4. Divided to show Facility for Detection . . 49 

5. Better Method of Roller Forji of Message . 50 

6. Message of No. 5 Unrolled . . . .51 

7. Mason-marks from Ancient Buildings . . 66 

8. The '' Revolving Disk " Cipher . . . .88 

9. Modification of Fig. 8 for Straight Edge . 91 

10. The "Bead" Cipher 98 

11. The "String" Cipher 100 

12. Elizabethan Arbitrary Symbols for Letters . 105 

13. The " Noughts and Crosses " Cipher . . 124 

14. The " Noughts and Crosses " : Key Changed . 126 

15. The " Grille " : Pierced Card .... 154 

16. The " Grille ": Message Read through Openings 156 



17. The "Grille": Message as Sent off 

18. The " Revolving Grille " Form of Cipher 

9 



158 
160 



10 



ILLUSTRATIONS 



19. Total of Openfngs made by Revolution of 

Grille 

20. The Message by "Revolving Grille 

21. The "Slip-card" Cipher . 

22. Inscription from Church in Spain 

23. Numerical Form of Cipher 

24. The "Newark" Cipher . 

25. The " Clock-hands " Cipher 

26. The "Two-word" Cipher. 



161 
163 
165 
174 
175 
177 
181 
183 



CHAPTER I 

Meaning of cryptography — Objections to its study — Its legit- 
imate use and value — Historic examples of its employ- 
ment — Delight in the mysterious — Many other ways of 
conveying secret information — Symbolism of action — 
The spoken word imprisoned and dispatched — A matter 
not necessarily secret because one cannot understand it 
— Egyptian hieroglyphics — Chinese characters — Indian 
mutiny Greek— Ancient Biblical cryj^togram— Sheshach 
of Jeremiah — Sir Henry Rawlinson thereon — Statements 
for and against — Julius Caesar's secret code— The waxed 
tablet of Demaratus — Difference between hidden and 
secret writing — The shaven head a wi-iting tablet — 
Charlemagne and Alfred the Great as cryptographic 
experts — Mediaeval authorities — Tritheraius the Bene- 
dictine — " Steganographia "—Dabbling in the black art 
— Dr. Dee — Batista Porta's book on " Xatural Majick" — 
Invisible writing — Chemical methods by vitriol, alum, 
etc.— Writing on glass or crystal — Papal Inquisition — 
Disappearing writing — Messages wrapped round rollers 
— Two methods — A slave's back the writing surface— 
Chemical methods of no great value ordinarily' — Dis- 
advantages of use — Action of liglit and heat — Chloride 
of cobalt, sulphate of copper, etc.— Often impossible to 
procure the materials. 



r I iHE word Cryptography is derived from 

the two Greek words hryptos and grapho, 

the first signifying that which is concealed 



12 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

or hidden, and tlie second meaning to write 
or describe, and it is in brief the conveying 
in a secret manner of any intelligence we 
may desire to communicate. 

It may at once occur to our readers as an 
objection to the study of cryptography that 
it is an art that may palpably be very readily 
adapted to evil purpose, and that in doing 
anything to facilitate its study we are placing 
a weapon in the hands of the ill-disposed. 
This is an argument, however, that applies 
equally to many studies that nevertheless are 
of great value. Astronomy may in evil hands 
become astrology, and the glorious stars them- 
selves mere counters for the fortune-teller ; 
while from the researches of chemistry may 
be derived the valuable dye, the healing 
medicine, or other beneficent discovery, or it, 
equally readily, may be perverted to supply 
the arsenal of the dyjiamitard or the subtle 
potion of the secret poisoner. Moreover, even 
if we regard cryptography as affording means 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 1 3 

for clandestine or treasonable communications, 
it is clearly a double-edged sword, and a 
knowledge of its principles and practice may 
at least equally well be used to unmask deceit 
and to unravel the tangled skein of the 
traitor. 

It is sufficiently evident, on a moment's re- 
flection, that this art of cryptography has a 
most legitimate use in the world. There are 
times of stress and danger in the history of 
a nation when it is absolutely impossible that 
vital operations in the field could be conducted 
to a successful issue if all the world at their 
inception had to be taken into confidence, and 
every step became at once a matter of common 
knowledge and discussion. In the same way 
the labours of the diplomatist could scarcely 
fructify to the national benefit or turn aside a 
national danger if every step had to be laid 
bare to the eye and the well-meant or acri- 
monious criticism of friend or foe, and become 
at once the property of every tattler who could 



14 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

read a letter or any traitor wlio could copy 
a dispatch. 

During the stormy closing years of the reign 
of Charles I., we find this art of secret writing 
assiduously cultivated both by Royalist and 
Parliamentarian, as the multitudinous records 
preserved in the British Museum and our 
other national archives abundantly testify. 
Previously to this, in the stirring times of 
Queen Elizabeth much use had been made of 
it, and during the troublous days of the French 
Revolution, when no man of any mark or in- 
fluence was safe any hour from denunciation, 
we find an immense use of this cipher-writing, 
when treachery was at its deadly work, or 
when the love that was stronger than death 
sought to shield the victim from the impending 
blow, and give the warning that might yet 
secure safety by timely flight. 

That which is secret and mysterious, calling 
for acute intelligence to penetrate its meaning, 
has always exercised a great fascination on 



OR CIPHER-WRiriNG 15 

the human mind. Hence at one end of the 
scale we have the denunciations of the Hebrew 
prophets clothed in mystic language or figured 
in strange symbolic action,^ and at the other 
the delight in puzzledom that finds its pabulum 
in missing- word competitions, conundrums, and 
such-like stimulants to the ingenuity of the 
reader. This love of the mysterious, this 
delight in setting one's wits to work to excel 
others or to save oneself from checkmate, is 
one great influence the more in the fascination 
that cipher- writing has undoubtedly at all 
times possessed. 

Secrecy of communication may of course 
take many forms. The scarcely perceptible 
movement of the eye may convey a very de- 
finite warning, or the talking on the fingers, 

^ This symbolism has always exercised a very marked 
influence amongst Eastern peoples. Our readers will 
recall, as an example, the sending of a bird, mouse, frog, 
and arrow by the Scythians to the Persians, as a gentle 
hint to them that unless they could escape as a bird 
by flight, could swim as frogs, or conceal themselves as 
mice, they wei^e hastening to swift destruction. 



l6 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

leai'iiedlj called dactylology or clieirology, may 
serve as a means of conveying a message. The 
significance of flowers may make a bouquet 
eloquent, or the gift of a ring may, in the 
initials of the stones that enrich it, spell out 
words of sympathy and tender feeling. The 
Romans had a code of communication based 
on touching various parts of the person ; thus 
the finger to the forehead meant F, while the 
touching of the beard signified B. Watch- 
fires, waving torches, flashing mirrors, jangling 
bells, have all been utilized ; but all these are 
mentioned but to dismiss them, since our 
present purpose is to deal only with such 
methods of communication as are possible 
by means of writing. Before, however, doing 
so we cannot forbear reference to a quaint 
suggestion that we encountered in an old 
authority on the subject, whereby the human 
voice was made the medium of transmis- 
sion. The person desiring to send the mes- 
sage was gravely instructed to breathe his 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 17 

words slowly and distinctly into a long tube 
that was carefully and securely closed at 
the other end. So soon as he had finished 
all he had to say, the end into which he 
had spoken was promptly fastened up, and 
the message was then dispatched to the 
receiver. This latter, on obtaining possession 
of the tube, was careful to open it at the end 
last sealed, as of course it was of great import- 
ance that the words should come out distinctly 
and in the order spoken. If by inadvertence 
the wrong end were opened, the operator was 
warned that the message would come out in 
inverted order. On thinking out this valuable 
idea we cannot help deciding that the direc- 
tions given would lead to just the result 
deprecated. If we, for instance, plugged up 
the farther end of a railway tunnel, ran a train 
into it, and then fastened up the near end, 
we should, on presently re-opening this end, 
find that the train would come out backwards. 
However, this is a mere detail, and a very little 

B 



I8 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

experience would soon decide which end of the 
tube it was best to open. Baron Munchausen 
seems to have quite accidentally hit upon 
another curious property of sound, when the 
melodies that he had apparently hopelessly 
in hard frost endeavoured to get out of his 
bugle flowed from it of themselves quite easily 
when the instrument was brought into a well- 
warmed room at his journey's end. 

A matter is not necessarily secret, of course, 
just because we or some other people fail 
to understand it. This seems the barest of 
truisms when once stated, but it needs enun- 
ciation nevertheless. People, for instance, con- 
stantly speak of the Egyptian hieroglyphics, as 
Ben Jon son does on our title-page, as though 
they had some reserved and occult significance, 
whereas they were but the recognised symbols 
for conveying ideas, recording history, and so 
forth, of the whole educated caste of the 
nation. In the days not so very long ago 
when tliree-fourths of the people of England 



:ir 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 1 9 

could neither read nor write, the epistles that 
passed between the " quality," and written in 
legible enough characters for those who were 
sufficiently " scollerds " to read them, could 
scarcely be considered examples of crypto- 
graphy. The queer characters on a Chinese 
tea-chest are to most of us Western people 
merely meaningless lines and dabs of colour, 
but the sole reason of their being put there 
was that they might convey a meaning. 
The Cantonese or Amoy man who painted 
them was adding information, and had no 
thought or intention of bewildering the outer 
barbarian whose Eugby, Harrow, or board - 
school training had in this matter failed him. 
The outward form of the communication has 
very little to do with it, but the intention 
has almost everything to do with it. If we, 
for instance, from a laudable desire to keep 
up our French, often talk it in the family 
circle, that is one thing ; but if we drop into 
it because the servant is in the room, and it 



20 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

is not quite convenient that the details of our 
approaching bankruptcy should also be dis- 
cussed ten minutes afterwards in the kitchen, 
that is quite another. If an English officer at 
Aldershot chose to write out any little message 
to a brother officer in English words, but 
with Greek characters, he would be considered 
eccentric or silly ; but such communications 
passed in hundreds between British officers 
during the Indian Mutiny. An intercepted 
message written in English could have been 
read easily enough in every camp of the 
mutineers, and they would thus have become 
possessed of valuable military information; 
but this cryptogamic use of the Greek letters 
rendered such communications entirely value- 
less to them. 

It has been freely stated by divers authori- 
ties that the earliest examples of cipher- 
writing may be seen in the use of the word 
Sheshach by Jeremiah. He is the only writer 
who uses it, and w^hile a Hebrew scholar 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 21 

assures us that the term is meaningless in 
itself, it is undoubtedly made up by reversing 
the letters that spell the Hebrew word for 
Babylon. If a modern writer denouncing the 
wickedness of London thought it prudent to 
refer to it as Nodnol, those who detected the 
transposition of the letters would have no 
doubt of the meaning. Yet one cannot help 
feeling a little hesitation in accepting the 
Sheshach as an archaic cryptogram. One 
authority we questioned said that there might 
have been a good reason for disguising the 
name ; but on going to the fountain-head and 
reading the verse itself that the prophet wrote 
over six hundred years before the Christian 
era, we find, "How is Sheshach taken! and 
how is the praise of the whole earth surprised ! 
How is Babylon become an astonishment 
among the nations ! " There seems but little 
reason for any concealment in the first half 
of the verse when the second half effectually 
lays all open. Sir Henry Rawlinson, no mean 



22 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

authority, does not feel the accepted explana- 
tion so entirely satisfactory as to render any 
other superfluous. He states that IJr, the city 
of Abraham, " might have been read in one of 
the ancient dialects of Babylon as Shishaki," 
and if this be so the transposition of letters 
becomes merely a remarkable coincidence. 
Sheshach then stands for Ur, the ancient 
capital, and Babel or Babylon for the then 
modern one, and the prophet may thus be 
taken as referring to the whole national life 
from its birth in lowly Ur of the Ohaldees to 
the day when he wrote of the great city of 
Babylon his words of warning and reproof; 
but here again on going to the fountain head, 
we find the whole reference to be in the 
present tense. Eawlinson, too, only tells of 
what "might have been," and we certainly 
seem to need a firmer foundation than this 
possibility. The two alternatives before us 
are equally perplexing. "Would any writer 
be so cautious and reticent one moment, 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 23 

SO plainly outspoken the next, if liis object 
all through was prudent suppression of a 
name ? On the other hand, if the two names 
refer to two entirely different places — as, for 
example, Winchester and London — is it not 
a most extraordinary coincidence that the 
letters in the name of each city are precisely 
the same, and that while the one has them 
in one order, the other has them exactly 
reversed ? What proportion, according to the 
law of chances, of millions to one would be 
necessary to express the likelihood of such a 
transposition occurring? It was absolutely 
necessary to refer to this Sheshach question, 
since, as we have stated, this passage in the 
Bible is claimed by some enthusiastic crypto- 
logists and commentators as the earliest 
example of a cipher, and now, perforce, we 
can but leave it to the reader to derive such 
benefit and comfort from the matter as he 
may. 

This simple reversal of the alphabet, A 



24 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

representing Z, B being the equivalent of Y, 
etc., is far too evident to have any crypto- 
grammic vahie, as the changed value of the 
letters is very quickly perceived. The his- 
torian Suetonius tells us that Julius Ceesar, 
in forwarding his dispatches, changed the 
positions of the letters by four places, making 
D stand for A, P for M, and so on ; but this, 
though a trifle better, was still the most 
elementary work. Scaliger, we see, in refer- 
ring to it, styles it a "pure absurdity*'; yet 
one repeatedly finds in the " agony column " 
communications based on this or some equally 
simple shifting on of the letters. 

Polybius tells us that ^neas Tacitus had 
collected together twenty different kinds of 
secret writing, some of them having been in 
use before his time, while others he devised 
himself. Herodotus mentions that one 
Demaratus, a commander of the forces, 
wrote his communications on wooden tablets, 
and then had them smoothly coated over 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 25 

with wax, as though they were merely blank 
surfaces for the stylus. Those who received 
them, and who were in the secret, removed 
this upper coating, and the message stood 
revealed. But this, it will be noted, was 
scarcely secret writing, any more than a 
letter fastened down in an envelope to-day 
becomes secret writing by the process. It 
is but hidden writing, and when the wax of 
the tablet or the covering surface of the 
envelope are removed the writing has lost all 
its secrecy. Most of the ancient methods of 
secret communication were of this nature. 
One plan gravely commended was to shave a 
slave's head, and then to write upon it any 
message one might wish to send. "When the 
hair was sufficiently grown to conceal the 
matter, the man was dispatched to the person 
with whom it was desired to communicate, 
and he in turn shaved the victim and read off 
the message. In these days when fifty miles 
an hour is considered far too slow for business. 



26 CR YPTOGRAPHY 

and when we read at breakfast in our news- 
paper tlie details of the insurrection that 
broke out yesterday in Central Africa, such a 
method of communication would be voted al- 
together too dilatory, and we cannot help 
feeling — such- is the force of nineteenth-century 
habit — that even in those good old times, when 
nobody seemed to be at all in a hurry, the 
message that could afford to wait while a new 
crop of hair was growing could not have been 
of any great urgency, or they would surely | 
have found a less leisurely way of dispatch- 
ing it. 

Charlemagne kept up a private correspon- 
dence in cipher- writing, and the secret alpha- 
bet used by Alfred the Great may still be 
seen in the Bodleian Library. We also, dur- 
ing the fifth century, find Pharamond and 
other reigning princes utilising various more 
or less satisfactory systems of cryptography, 
but in those early days those who could either 
write or read with any ease were but few in 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 27 

number. "When we come to the Middle Ages 
a perfect epidemic ran round Europe, and 
cryptograpliia, or, as it was sometimes termed, 
polygraphia or steganographia, had its en- 
thusiastic votaries in every land. Those who 
care for the archaeological side of the subject 
may refer to the writings of Palatino, dating 
1540, of Bellaso in 1553, and of Glanburg in 
1560. Should this not have damped their 
ardour, they may next take a course of Porta, 
Trithemius, Cardanus, Walchius, Bibliander, 
Schottus, Selenus, Herman Hugo, Niceron, 
Oaspi, Tridenci, Comiers, La Fin, Dalgarno, 
Buxtorff, Wolfgang, and Falconer. Even then, 
if they so wish it, are open to them the writ- 
ings of Eidel, Soro, Amman, Breitkampt, 
Conradus, De Yaines, Lucatello, Kircher, and 
not a few others ; while for those who do not 
care to dig their knowledge out of such dusty 
worm-eaten tomes William Blair is the very 
thing, though we would fain hope that ere we, 
and they, reach the last of these present 



28 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

pages they will feel tliat they have derived 
thence as much eDlightenment as they need. 

As many of these mediaeval authors had a 
great knack of conveying, with scant or no 
acknowledgment, the labour of others into 
their own store, there would be little profit 
in referring at any length to their works ; we 
will therefore select but two, Trithemius and 
Porta, for any comment. 

Trithemius, the first in time of these two 
old writers, was an able Benedictine. He 
was Abbot of Spanheim, and his was the 
first really elaborate treatise on cryptogram- 
mic writing. The first printed edition was 
published in Frankfort in the year 1606, and 
a copy of this is preserved in the Bodleian 
Library ; a second edition was issued from the 
same press two years later. Its title is of 
the elaborate character that is characteristic 
of books of that period. " SteganograpMa : 
hoc est ars i^er occvltam Scriptvram animi svi 
voluntatem ahsentihvs aperiendi certa : avthore 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 29 

reverendissimo et darissimo vivo Joanne Tru 
fheniio, Ahhate Sjpanheimensi et Magice Natur- 
aUs Magistro perfedissimo,^* His method was 
a somewhat curious one, as he compiled 
many folios full of devout sentences through 
the use of which quite other and mundane 
matters could be conveyed. The result was 
a vast mass of misdirected energy. Unfor- 
tunately, to these he added a number of extra- 
ordinary characters, which he designated spiri- 
tus diurni and spiritus nocturni, the result 
being that lie was accused of dabbling in the 
black art and holding converse with demons. 
He was therefore brought to trial for these 
magical incantations, and had a very narrow 
escape of being burnt. He had also the misfor- 
tune to incur the lavish abuse of Jerome 
Cardan, himself the author of a system of 
cryptography, and was by him relentlessly 
attacked and hounded down. 

Dr. Dee, who was himself under the ban 
as a follower of divers uncanny arts that were 



30 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

supposed to bring him into closer relation 
Avitli demons tlian was held to be at all justi- 
fiable, was a great admirer of the work of 
Trithemius. He was often sent abroad on 
more or less secret service by the Ministers of 
Queen EHzabeth, and we find him writing from 
Antwerp on February 16, 1563, to Sir William 
Cecil for permission to extend his stay in that 
city. He was mainly desirous of doing so, 
as he was arranging for the publication at 
Antwerp of a book of his own, the Monas 
Hierogli/phica, issued in the following year ; 
but as his private affairs were scarcely a 
sufficiently good reason why he should be 
maintained there at the expense of the State, 
he adds that he is there able to gather much 
together that would be of gain to the nation.^ 
Amongst other reasons for staying on, he 
writes : '*' Allready I have purchased one 
boke, for wch a Thowsand Orownes have 

^ III reference to this appeal of Dr. Dee, Cecil's memor- 
andum is extant stating that the applicant's time beyond 
the sea had been well spent. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 3I 

been by others offred and yet could not be 
obteyned. A boke for wliicli many a lerned 
man liath long sowght and dayley yet doth 
seeke : Whose use is greater than the fame 
therof is spred: The name therof to you is 
not unknowne: The title is on this Wise — 
Steganographia Joannis Tritemij : wherof in 
both the editions of his Polygraphia mention 
is made, and in his epistles, and in sundry 
other mens bokes : A boke for your honor, 
or a Prince, so meet, so needfull and commo- 
dious, as in humayne knowledge none can be 
meeter or more behopefull. Of this boke 
the one half, with contynuall Labor and watch 
the most part of X dayes have I copyed oute : 
And now T stand at the Courtesye of a noble- 
man of Hungarie for writing furth the rest: 
who hath promised me leave therto after he 
shall perceyve that I may remayne by him 
longer (with the leave of my prince) to 
pleasure him also with such points of Science 
as at my hands he requireth. Thys boke, 



32 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

eytlier as I now have yt, or hereafter shall 
have yt, fi^Hy whole and p'fit (yf it pleas you 
to accept my present) I give unto your honor 
as the most precyous juell that I have yet of 
other mens travailes recovered." 

The account is not quite a clear one, as he 
declares that he has bought the book, though 
he does not say that he himself gave a thou- 
sand crowns for it, and yet he appears to 
have copied it by the courtesy of the noble- 
man possessing it, and who certainly does 
not seem to have sold it to him. From the 
price Dee puts on the book, it is evident that 
it was a manuscript copy. The book was 
long kept from the knowledge of the general 
public, the first printed copy not being issued 
until forty-three years after this letter of 
Dee to Cecil. The direct gift to Cecil we 
may perhaps, without being wanting in 
charity, regard as a gentle bribe to be al- 
lowed to stay on at Antwerp for the ad- 
vancement of his private business ends. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 33 

Batista Porta, a Neapolitan writer, com- 
piled five books on ciphers, " lies Notes 
occultes des lettreSy'^ tliat were published in 
Strasbourg in the year 1606, and he also 
devotes one of the " Bookes " of his " Natural 
Majick" to the art of invisible writing. The 
edition before us as we write is dated 1658, 
the title page stating that the book was 
*' printed by Thomas Young and Samuel 
Speed, and are to be sold at the Three 
Pigeons, and at the Angel in St. Paul's 
Churchyard.'* In this volume, divided into 
twenty sections, or books as he calls them, 
are " set forth all the Kiches and Delights of 
the Natural Sciences," and the result is a 
strange medley indeed. His first book deals 
with " the Causes of Wonderful things," a 
sufiiciently extensive subject in • itself and 
including " the Nature of Magick," the influ- 
ence of the stars, and so forth. Other sec- 
tions deal with the transmutation of metals, 
the wonders of the load-stone, the beauti- 

c 



34 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

fjing of women, etc., and the sixteenth con- 
cerns itself with "invisible writing." His 
last book is " of the Chaos," and here we find 
a promiscuous mass of matter that either 
would not fit in happily in any of the other 
books, or which he happened to have over- 
looked, or upon which he had gained fuller 
information than when dealt with in its 
original position. This chaotic section in- 
cludes such diverse matters as how to make 
foul water drinkable, and how to distil it 
from the air, the art of altering one's face so 
that one's friends are deceived, how to make 
stones grow of themselves, how to make an 
instrument whereby we may hear sounds at 
a great distance, how to detect frauds in 
impostors, and much else of more or less 
chaotic interest and value. 

The sixteenth book, " wherein are handled 
secrets and undiscovered notes," commences 
with the statement that *^ there are two sorts 
of secret marks, which they vulgarly call 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 35 

syfers : one of visible marks, and is worbliy of 
a treatise by itself ; anotlier of secret marks, 
whereof I liave attempted to say sometliing in 
this pi^esent Volume, and what are the con- 
sequents thereof, for the use of great Men and 
Princes, that take care for things absent, and 
write to some man that knows the invention. 
I shall set down some examples plainly : but 
these things and the consequences of them 
must be faithfully concealed, lest by growing 
common amongst ordinary peoplew they be dis- 
respected." Our old author here clearly felt 
the difficulty of the position he had got himself 
into ; on the one hand thinking to impart 
much curious and useful knowledge, and on 
the other hand in the act of doing so feeling 
its publication a contradiction vitiating all his 
labour. Even Natural Magick fails to show 
how the frank exposition and the careful 
concealment of secret matters can be simul- 
taneously accomplished. This doubtless, too, 
was one potent reason why the folios of Tri- 



36 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

themius remained in manuscript some fifty 
years. 

Porta's division of his subject into visible 
and secret marks looks at first sight a little 
puzzling, for unless visible marks carry a 
secret significance they are in this connexion 
valueless. We soon find, hoAvever, on reading 
las book, that what he means by visible marks 
is the use of letters, figures, or other signs 
that are evident enough to all beholders 
though theii* significance is unknown, and 
these, as he says, are worthy of a treatise to 
themselves. In the present work he deals 
almost entirely with communications that are 
secret through their invisibility, until some 
chemical application, the action of heat or of 
light, or other external cause, bring them to 
view. He, in fact, begins his first ch'apter 
with the words : " There are many and almost 
infinite ways to write things of necessity, that 
the Characters shall not be seen, unless you 
dip them into waters, or put them near the 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 3? 

fire, or rub them with dust, or smeer them 



over." 



His first recipe is a double-barrelled one. 
It is to be employed " if you desire that letters 
not seen may be read, or such as are seen may 
be hid." This is a very artful state of things 
to briug about. The enemy or other un- 
authorized person into whose hands the paper 
fell would be put off the scent by reading a 
communication that was of no value or sig- 
nificance to them, while the person to whom 
it was really sent w^ould take steps first to 
remove the visible writing, and then to make 
a second communication, written between the 
lines of the first, tell out its story by the ap- 
plication of a second preparation. The pro- 
cedure is as follows : " Let Vitriol soak in 
Boyling water : when it is dissolved, strain it 
so long till the water grow clear : with that 
liquor write upon paper : when they are dry 
they are not seen. Moreover, grinde burnt 
straw with Vinegar : and what you will write 



38 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

in tlie spaces between tlie former lines, de- 
scribe at large. Then boyl sowre Galls in 
white Wine, wet a spunge in the liquor : and 
when yon have need, wipe it upon the paper 
gently, and wet the letters so long until the 
native black colour disappear, but the former 
colour, that was not seen, may be made ap- 
parent. Now I will show in what liquors 
paper must be soaked to make letters to be 
seen. As I said. Dissolve Vitriol in water : 
then powder Galls finely, and soak them in 
water : let them stay there twenty-four hours : 
filtre them through a linen cloth, or something 
else, that may make the water clear, and make 
letters upon the paper that you desire to have 
concealed : send it to your Friend absent : 
when you would have them appear, dip them 
in the first liquor, and the letters will presently 
be seen." The materials, it may be noted, are 
fairly readily procurable : an important point 
to consider. 

Porta also suggests that we may dissolve 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 39 

alum ill water and write with it upon linen 
and the like, declaring that when this writing 
is dry it will be invisible. When you would 
render it visible, it will suffice to soak the 
sheet or napkin in water. The fabric will 
appear darker where it has not been touched 
by the alum solution, so that the message will 
appear in letters of white. After divers other 
prescriptions, in which litharge, citron-juice, 
goat's fat, juniper, and various other ingre- 
dients figure, he winds up his first section, 
" On how a writing dip'd in divers Liquors 
may be read," by the assertion, " there are 
many such arts, too tedious to relate," and he 
then proceeds to his next section, how letters 
may be made visible by the action of heat. 

" If you write," he tells us, " with the juice 
of Citrons, Oranges, Onyons, or almost any 
sharp things, if you make it hot at the fire, 
their acrimony is presently discovered : for 
they are undigested juices, whereas they are 
detected by the heat of the fire, and then they 



4o CRYPTOGRAPHY 

sliow fortli those colours tliat they would show 
if they were rq^e. If you write with a sowre 
Grape that would be black, or with Cervices : ^ 
when you hold them to the fire they are con- 
cocted, and will give the same colour they 
would in due time give upon the tree, when 
they were ripe. Juice of Cherries, added to 
Calamus, will make a green : to sowbread a 
red : so divers juices of Fruits will show divers 
colours by the fire. By these means Maids 
sending and receiving love-letters, escape from 
those that have charge of them. There is also 
a kind of Salfc called Ammoniac : this powdred 
and mingled with water, will write white 
letters, and can hardly bo distinguished from 
the paper, but hold them to the fire, and they 
will shew black." 

Porta has also a suggestion for making 
communications that cannot be read until 

^ The fruits of tlie Service-tree, Pyrus torminalis, of a 
greenisli-brown colour, and of rough acid flavour until 
they are mellowed by frost. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 4 1 

tlie paper be burnt upon wliicli they are 
made. He arrives at this in the following 
fashion : " Take the sharpest Vinegar and the 
white of an Egg : in these steep Quick-silver 
and stir it well : and with that mixture make 
Letters upon the paper : burn the paper in the 
fire, and the letters will remain unburnt." 
The result of this will be that the paper will 
be black and the letters white. This sounds 
better in theory than it would probably work 
out in practice. We are all familiar with the 
fact that even when a letter written in or- 
dinary ink is burnt, we may often still be able 
to read on its charred surface portions of the 
writing, but we know also that the act of 
burning twists and curls the paper up so that 
much of the writing is out of our sight, while 
the whole thing is so brittle that a touch may 
break it up, and any attempt at straightening 
out the sheet would be wholly futile. 

Porta has various ideas as to developing in- 
visible writing by means of dust or soot; by 



42 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

Avriting wibli vinegar, gum solution, tlie milk of 
tlie fig tree and various other ingredients, and 
then rendering the message visible by rubbing 
these substances upon it. The milk of the fig 
tree was not readily accessible as we were writ- 
ing these lines, so of its efficacy we can say 
nothing, but a letter which we forthwith pro- 
ceeded to write with vinegar at once became 
clearly legible when soot was rubbed gently 
over its surface. Our au.thor tells us that 
" there is also an Art that one would not imagine 
to write upon Chrystal ; for being all transpar- 
ent no man will dream of it, and the letters 
may lie hid therein. Do it thus. Dissolve Gum 
Arabick in water, or Gum Tragacanth, that it 
may be cleer ; and when it is well dissolved, it 
will not foul the Chrystal if you write upon it 
or upon a Gup or Glass, for when the letters are 
dry they are invisible. No man will imagine it, 
if a cup be sent to one in prison, or a Glass full 
of wine : when he would see the letters, rub 
burnt straw or paper upon it, and the letters 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 43 

will presently be seen." This also we brought 
to the test of experiment, writing upon a glass 
bottle with a solution of gum-arabic. The 
writing when dry was absolutely invisible. On 
rubbing burnt paper over the writing we were 
unable to get any satisfactory result, but on 
wiping this off and using soot instead we at 
once got the wording very sharply defined in 
black on the transparent glass, the experiment 
being entirely successful. At the same time 
there seem to be practical difficulties ; one can 
hardly imagine a prisoner saying, " Would you 
kindly oblige me with a pinch of soot or a 
handful of straw and a match ? " At all 
events we can hardly imagine his getting 
them. 

A curious side-light and reference to " the 
good old days " is shown again in Porta's in- 
structions as to how secret messages may be 
sent by means of eggs, for he tells us that 
" Eggs are not stopt by the Papal Inquisition, 
and no fraud is suspected to be in them." 



44 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

Hence prisoners niiglit perchance receive eggs 
from tlieir friends, and with them messages 
from the outside world. However this may be, 
it is at least a pleasant picture. One has al- 
ways so imagined the victims of the Inquisition 
going melancholy mad in dripping dungeons, 
or shrieking at each turn of the rack and 
thumb-screw, that the idea of the man sitting 
down in peace to his lunch, and having a new- 
laid Qgg with it, comes as quite a welcome 
surprise. 

Porta is also great on the subject of devis- 
ing means whereby written characters, freely 
legible at first, might presently disappear; but 
one can scarcely imagine such a thing as being 
of any great value. It might at times be an 
advantage if promises made on the eve of an 
election, the former sentiments of recreant and 
turncoat politicians, or the fervent protesta- 
tions of the lover lavishly poured out ere the 
breach of promise action had even been deemed 
a possibility, could somehow be forgotten ; and 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 45 

tliere might of course be occasions when some 
damning document might be laid up in the 
archives of the enemy for use at some critical 
moment, and when its production after all as a 
blank sheet of paper might well be the differ- 
ence between a traitor's death and safe deliver- 
ance from the noose, the firing party at ten 
paces, or the convict hulk. Ordinarily, how- 
ever, when one has mastered the meaning of a 
communication, there are many safer and more 
expeditious ways of disposing of it than trust- 
ing to the corroding or paling action of any 
chemical to obliterate its secrets. In the 
seclusion of the diplomatist's study the glowing 
hearth, or in the bustle of the bivouac the 
roaring camp fire, will expeditiously enough 
reduce to ashes any paper that has fulfilled its 
purpose. 

In like spirit of adverse criticism we would 
deal with the reverse of this, "that invisible 
letters after some time shall become visible and 
show themselves." We are told that " if one 



46 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

write with juice of Citrons or Orilnges on 
Copper or Brass, and leave tins on for twenty 
days tlie letters will appear green upon the 
place ; the same may be done many other ways, 
namely, by dissolving Salt Ammoniac in water, 
and writing with it upon Brass, the place will 
sooner appear of verdigreese colour." It is 
sufficiently evident that it is rarely indeed that 
a delay of twenty or any other number of days 
is a desideratum. One ordinarily desires to 




Fig. 1. 



know at once any communication that any one 
sees fit to make to us, and should especially 
desire to do so if we knew that the secrecy and 
mystery attaching to it was an indication of its 
grave importance. 

The two or three examples that Porta gives 
" of letters on divers things which, though 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 47 

tliej be visible yet tbe Eeader will be deceived 
by tlieir secret device/' are of no great value. 
One of his hints is to write on parchment, and 
then put it to the fire or candle, when it will 
crumple up and in the contorted state of the 
parchment the written matter will be so twisted 
about that it will be unreadable. The harsh- 
ness of the fire-tried material upon which it is 
inscribed will resist any attempt at forcible 
flattening out, so that even if we detect the 
presence of a communication it is not get-at- 
able. But " if one desires to read what is in it 
let him lay it on moyst places or sprinkle it 
gently with water, and it will be dilated again 
and all the wrinkles will be gone, and it will 
appear as it did at first, that you may read the 
letters upon it without any hindrance." 

Porta also refers to the ancient expedient, 
ascribed to Archimedes and mentioned by 
Plutarch and other ancient authors, of wHting 
on a strip of paper wrapped round a stick. 
T\7o sticks of equal diameters must be sup- 



48 



CRYPTOGRAPHY 



plied, one being held by the one correspondent 
and the second by the other. A long thin 
strip of paper must now be wrapped spirally 




Fig. 2. 



round one of these cylinders so that the edges 
are just in contact throughout its length, and 
on these edges, so that a portion of each letter 



LAI Ltl IVIL iUUlM 
rv^rcT K/ir cnnM 



Fig. 3. 



comes on each side, the required communica- 
tion is written. The paper is then unrolled 
and forwarded to the holder of the second 
stick, and he, on rolling the strip around this. 



OR CIPHER- IVklTJNG 4.^ 

is able to read the message with great facility. 
The theory is that no one would take any 
notice of these marks on the edges of the 
paper, but on putting the matter to the test of 
experiment we found no difficulty, without 
any wrapping round stick or ruler, in reading 
the message that we had previously written. 
Half of each letter is seen, and that is quite 
sufficient to serve as a clue. If any of our 
readers like to test this statement for them- 
selves, they will readily find that if they place a 
piece of blank paper along any of the lines of 



[XPCCTMCSOO N-r 



Fig. 4. 

this printed page so that half of each letter is 
hidden the remaining half quite suffices for its 
identification. 

The message we wrote was, " Expect me 
soon." Fig. 1 shows the spirally wrapped 

D 



50 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

strip of paper and the message written on 
its edges. Fig. 3 represents tlie strip wlien 
unrolled from the pencil and flattened out 
ready for dispatch; while Fig. 2 shows how 
the message would look if the receiver, not 
knowing that a pencil had to be employed, 
tried wrapping it round a ruler. Fig. 3 has a 





■|VOr BE/ABLE/.. 
TliiVDTHlS 

Fig. 5. 

decidedly tell-tale appearance, anyway ; but if 
any unauthorized person into whose hands 
this strip came would just take the trouble 
to divide it in half lengthwise, and place, as 
in Fig. 4, the two lettered edges together, 
the message is at once as legible as any 
orthodox rewinding round a pencil could 
make it» 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 5 1 

A very mucli better way of work- 
ing this spiral paper metliod is to ^V 
write the message, not along the 7 V 
edges, but right across the strips U\> 
themselves. Having wound our strip ^9)^* 
of paper round our ruler, we wrote <v\\ 
as follows upon it : " Get another 
roller the same size, or you will not 
be able to read this communication." 
The appearance of our message-bearing 
sta:ff may be seen in Fig. 5, while 
Fig. 6 shows a portion of the strip 
as it looked when unwound and ready 
for sending off to our correspondent. 
It will at once be seen how far more 
puzzling this is than the strip shown 
in Fig. 3. 

Some of the material we find in 
Porta's chapters can scarcely be con- 
sidered to come within the category 
of "invisible writing" at all, since 
the methods he adopts are akin to 



A? 

Fig. 6. 



52 CR yPTOGRAPU Y 

the ordinary letter put in an envelope that 
we have already cited. He tells, for in- 
stance, how a communication was once sent 
within a loaf, and in another case in the 
interior of a dead hare ; how others, again, 
have safely brought letters concealed in their 
girdles, beneath the soles of their feet, or in 
their scabbards or quivers ; how pigeons may 
be used as messengers,^ or intelligence shot 
into camp or fortress by arrows or guns. He 
quotes numerous instances of this sort of 
thing from ancient writers ; from Theophras- 
tus, Africanus, Herodotus, Ovid, Ca3sar, Pliny, 
and others. 

He does not forget to refer to the slave 
with shaven head, but he also recognises 
that it may oftentimes be desirable that an 
underling conveying a message should be in 
ignorance of the fact that he is being thus 



^ A great use was made of pigeons as messengers daring 
the Franco-German war, and the pigeon-loft of to-daj 
is as much an item of war strength as a Maxim gun. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 53 

employed. Had he this knowledge, he might 
possibly desert to the enemy, or be filled 
with such exaltation of spirit at the import- 
ance of his mission as to betray himself and 
awaken suspicion. If he fell into the hands 
of the enemy, he might be tempted by fair 
promises, or affrighted by threats, to reveal 
his mission ; whereas, if he were unconscious 
of it, his whole manner would be so frankly 
guileless as to avert suspicion, and he would 
much more probably pass on his way unchal- 
lenged. He was, therefore, given no letter 
to conceal; nothing was handed to him to 
excite his interest or awaken his suspicions; 
but his food was drugged, and, while he was 
under the influence of an opiate, his own 
broad back was the surface utilised as the 
sheet whereon to inscribe the message re- 
quired to be transmitted. This method is re- 
ferred to by Porta, but it dates back far into 
ancient history, — Ovid, for instance, alluding 
to it. 



54 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

Speaking in a general way, but at the 
same time as the outcome of considerable ex- 
periment, we should be inclined to say that 
the various compounds suggested by Porta 
and many other writers as inks, invisible 
until developed by the action of light, or of 
heat, or the washing over of another solu- 
tion, are of no great practical value ; while 
the materials, though in most cases common 
enough, may not always be forthcoming. 
The commander of an advanced post in a 
hostile land, who was desirous of communi- 
cating with the base of operations, or with 
the leader of a relief party, might be a thou- 
sand miles from the nearest place where 
chloride of cobalt, for example, was pro- 
curable. 

A great practical disadvantage in the use 
of such materials is that, as they flow from 
the pen as clear and colourless as pure water, 
it is very difficult to see what one is writing; 
and so soon as tlie writing dries, as it very 



1 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 55 

quickly does, any cliance of correction or re- 
consideration is gone, and one can only trust 
to memory as to what was really put down 
at all. Such a message, too, on its receipt, 
might easily be mislaid or torn up as a piece 
of valueless paper; while, on the other hand, 
any special solicitude for its preservation 
would at once excite comment and suspicion. 
Any person who entertained such suspicion 
would probably be well aware that heat was 
one of the most effectual means of render- 
ing a secret message visible, and on its 
application the message would stand forth 
revealed to quite other eyes than those for 
whom it was intended. 

Some few of these simple preparations we 
may refer to ; as those who are curious in 
such matters might, when once put on the 
track, very naturally desire to test them for 
themselves. Any one so doing should be 
careful to use a clean quill pen; and as 
some, at least, of the materials are poisonous, 



56 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

some little discretion. Any one, for instance, 
who leaves a clear, colourless solution in a 
teacup or tumbler for an hour or two in 
kitchen or dining-room may very possibly be 
called upon by the coroner to explain; while 
attendance at the funeral would be another 
grievous break in the time devoted to this 
interesting study. 

As a familiar example of the chemicals 
affected by light we may mention nitrate of 
silver. Any communication made by a solu- 
tion of this would remain invisible until such 
time as exposed to daylight. On this ex- 
posure, the writing would reveal itself in dark 
chocolate-brown, and, once made visible, re- 
mains so. The writing should, of course, be 
done by artificial light; and we have found 
that a proportion of one of nitrate to fifteen 
of distilled water makes about the most satis- 
factory mixture. If, instead of placing the 
paper in the daylight we hold it over a 
vessel containing sulphate of ammonia the 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 57 

writing will appear with a metallic and silvery 
brilliancy. 

If we make a solution of chloride of cobalt, 
it will be of a pale pink in tint; but the 
colour is so slight that in writing with the 
fluid it appears colourless on the paper, and 
there is absolutely no trace of anything to 
be seen. On warming the paper before a 
good strong fire the characters appear of a 
clear bluish-green; but they disappear again 
as the paper cools, a matter of some five 
minutes or so. The effect can, of course, be 
reproduced as often as we choose to apply the 
necessary heat. If we use acetate of cobalt 
instead, the warming of the paper brings out 
the communication in a clear and beautiful 
blue colour. 

Equal parts of sulphate of copper and sal- 
ammoniac dissolved in water give a solution 
of a beautiful turquoise-blue tint. This, if 
applied at all strongly, dries on the paper 
of a pale greenish colour, a tint too weak 



58 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

to be legible, tbougli not too weak to be 
noticeable on a scrutiny. On warming the 
paper on wliicb any communication has been 
made by this agency the writing appears of 
a clear yellow, but on the cooling of the paper 
it disappears. The juice from an onion that 
has been macerated in a mortar will also pro- 
duce the same effect, the characters written 
by means of it being at first invisible, but 
afterwards clearly legible and of a yellow 
colour. 

If we wish to have a message that will 
remain indelible when once developed, we have 
the materials ready to hand by dissolving oil 
of vitriol in soft water in the proportion of 
a fluid ounce of the former to a pint of the 
latter. Strong chemical action is set up, and 
great heat evolved. The solution should be 
well stirred, and then allowed to cool, and 
it is then ready for use. Anything written 
by this agency is in theory supposed to be 
quite invisible until warming at the fire brings 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 59 

it out a clear black, but in practice we found, 
with solutions of varying strengths, that the 
writing, though at first invisible, became on 
drying quite perceptible, and looking as though 
written with whitewash or Chinese white on 
the paper. On a very cursory examination 
it might escape notice, but the slightest scru- 
tiny reveals it. The difficulty is that if we 
use a strong solution the writing can be read 
in the white characters, though it, on the 
application of heat, develops into a clear 
and excellently legible black ; while if we use 
a solution so weak as to escape notice when 
applied to the paper, it also develops a very 
weak colour on the application of warmth. 
The proportions we have given are perhaps 
the best, but the result in any case is hardly 
satisfactory if absolute invisibility is our ob- 
ject, and of course nothing short of this is 
worth anything. 

Many other chemical methods might be 
mentioned, but their value after all does not 



60 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

appear to be very great. Nothing but per- 
sonal investigation is of any real use. One 
finds over and over again things commended 
by various writers that entirely break down 
when brought to the vital test of actual 
experiment. 



CHAPTER 11 

Ancient use o£ arbitrary symbols — Tyrouiaii abbreviatious — 
Early works on shorthand— Excessive abbreviation of 
inscriptions on coins, etc. — Telegram-English — Mason- 
marks — Rise of cipher-writing in England — Clarendon's 
"History of the Rebellion" — Battle of Xaseby — Royal 
correspondence captured and deciphered — Published by 
Parliament — Weighted naval signal-codes — Charles I. a 
great expert in cryptography — Use of nnlles or non- 
significants — Numerical ciphers — Mediaeval inscription 
without vowels — Ciphers of Queen Henrietta and Sir 
Ralph Yerney— Great use of cipher at troublous periods 
of history — The " Century of Inventions " of the Marquis 
of Worcester— Birth of the steam-engine — Dedication of 
his labours to the nation — B^s numerous suggestions 
for cryptograms — The " disk " cryptogram — Principle 
modified to sliding strip — Bead alphabet — Heraldic 
representation of colours in black and white — The 
*' string " cipher — Bacon a cryptographic enthusiast — 
His essentials of a good cipher — -—His highest perfec- 
tion of a cipher — His plan cumbrous and unsatisfactory 
— ^A Trithemian example — Elizabethan arbitrary mark 
ciphers — No real mystery in them. 

A METHOD adopted by the ancient writers 

of representing words by arbitrary marks 

was said to have been first introduced by the 

61 



62 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

old poet Ennius. Maecenas, Cicero, Seneca the 
elder, Philargirus, Tyro, and many otlier 
Avriters commended and employed these marks. 
By the time of Seneca thirteen thousand of 
these characters were in use. They are or- 
dinarily termed Tyronian. Thousands of these 
Tyronian abbreviations and symbols may be 
seen in the writings of Valerius Probus, 
Paulus Diaconus, Goltzius, and other authors. 
So completely during the Middle Ages did they 
answer the purpose of secret writing that an 
old copy of a psalter found inscribed in these 
characters was ignorantly entitled, " PsaUeriu)7i 
in Lingua Armenica " ; and Pope Julius the 
Second employed several learned men without 
success to decipher it. This was originally 
but a system of shorthand, and it only grew 
into a mystery when the key that unlocked 
it was lost. 

The "Jrs Scribendi characteris,^^ written 
about the year 1412, is the oldest system of 
shorthand extant, while the first English 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 63 

book on the subject did not apjDear until 
1588. It was written by one Timotlij Bright, 
and entitled " Characterie, or the Art of 
Short, Swift, and Secret Writing." The 
notion of cryptography is present in this title. 
If a man employs a system of abbreviated 
writing because it is short or swift, it is to him 
but a matter of convenience and a gain of 
time; but if he adopts it because it is secret, 
an entirely different motive comes in. A man 
who writes in Pitman or any other widely- 
known system of shorthand, or who adopts 
any of the modern telegraph code-books that 
compress a long sentence into a single arbi- 
trary word, is no disciple of cryptography 
therein ; but if he, like Pepys in his famous 
diary, adopts a secret code because on the 
whole he prefers to keep his affairs private, 
his shorthand stands on quite a different 
footing to that of the first man. Such codes 
have their dangers. Not only is one exposed, 
hke Pepys, to the risk of having all one's 



64 CR YPTOGRAPH Y 

matters laid bare, but tliere is also the pro- 
bability of sucli a fiasco as occurred within 
our own knowledge, where a man kept his 
business and family memoranda by a short- 
hand system that he himself devised, the result 
being that at his death his affairs got at once 
into a state of utter confusion that they never 
rallied from, and there can be but little doubt 
that much property was lost to the family 
from want of all clue to it. 

An ancient form of writing employed 
amongst the Romans w^as the excessive ab- 
breviation of w^ords in inscriptions on statues, 
coins, and so forth ; but this w^as not for 
secrecy. Any one caring for examples of the 
sort of thing Avill find abundant illustrations 
in such old tomes as the '^Lexicon Diploma- 
ticum^^ of Walther or the '^ Siglarium Bo- 
manum " of Gerrard. In fact, the D.Gr. and 
Fid. Def. on our present money supplies us 
with a good example of the curtailment neces- 
sary where one desires to get a good deal of 



OR CIPHER- WRITING 65 

material in a very circumscribed space. A still 
better example may be seen in the coinage 
of George III., where we may find such 
concentrated information as the following : 
M • B • F • ET • H • REX -F-D-B-ET'L-D- 
S • R • I • A • T • ET • E •. This suggests a sort 
of mince or hash of the alphabet, but with 
due amplification and clothing of these bare 
letters, we arrive at last at " Magnce Britan- 
nice, Franci'ce eb Hibernice Rex, Fidel Defensor, 
Brunnovici et Liinehergi Dux, Sacrl Bomani 

(Imperii Archithesaurarius et Elector^ 
We may say parenthetically that in all 
cryptogrammic communications the message 
or other matter should be abbreviated as far 
as is consistent with intelligibility. One 
should cultivate for this purpose the style 
of telegram-English. It makes less labour 
■ and less chance of error creeping in for the 
sender, less time in unravelling for the re- 
ceiver, and less handle for any unauthorized 
reader to lay hold of. This last, as we shall 



66 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

see wlien we come presently to consider the 
decipherment of a mysterious message, is a 
point of very considerable importance. 



Fig. 7. 



On old buildings we may sometimes see 
what are called mason-marks cut upon the 
stones. It has been suggested that these 
had originally a symbolic meaning known 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 67 

only to those initiated in the ancient craft of 
freemasonry. Some authorities tell us that 
they are almost as old as the human race, 
that they probably had in early times a 
meaning that is now lost, that they were long 
regarded with a certain reverence, and that 
an essential rule for their formation was 
that they should contain at least one angle. 
We have reprinted in Fig. 7 divers examples 
of these marks from various ancient buildings. 
There is no doubt that all of them contain 
at least one angle ! The more prosaic ex- 
planation of these marks is that they served 
to denote the work of each mason employed 
on any important building, that if the pay- 
ment was by piecework such marking pre- 
vented dispute, and that if the work were badly 
done or any error made it was at once seen 
where blame should be imputed. Each mason 
had his distinctive mark, and many ancient 
registers of these are extant. The enthusiasts 
who see in these marks some mystic cult claim 



68 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

as one proof that thej may be found even on 
the blocks of sfcone that complete the Pyra- 
mids; but the more prosaic student might 
point out that this after all only indicates 
very ancient usage, and that it was as neces- 
sary in the time of Chofo to detect careless 
workmanship as when Salisbury or Amiens 
cathedrals were being erected. Whatever may 
be the exact truth, we are, we think, at all 
events justified in giving them a paragraph 
and an illustration in the space at our dis- 
posal. 

Cipher-writing scarcely makes any real ap- 
pearance in English archives until the reign 
of Queen Elizabeth. There had been divers 
isolated examples, as, for instance, as far back 
as Alfred the Great ; but it was scarcely until 
the days of the Tudors that we find it really 
in vogue. Many examples of this period are 
preserved in the British Museum, and in the 
troublous days of the first Charles we find 
an immense use of it. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 69 

Amidst tlie historical documents preserved in 
the House of Lords, and brought to light by the 
Royal Commission on historical MSS., is the 
correspondence of King Charles captured by 
the Roundheads at Naseby — a correspondence 
which Dr. John Wallis, a distinguished ma- 
thematician of those days, analysed and fin- 
ally deciphered, and which ultimately cost 
the defeated monarch his head. 

In Lord Clarendon's " History of the Re- 
bellion " (Book IX. vol. ii. p. 508) we read : 
" In the end the King was compelled to quit 
the field, and to leave Fairfax master of all 
his foot, cannons, and baggage, amongst which 
was his own cabinet, where his most secret 
letters were,^ and letters between the Queen 



^ One scarcely sees how, in the turmoil of battle and the 
sudden realization of defeat, an incident so untoward 
could well be prevented. On board a man-of-war the code 
of signals is always kept in a leaden case, perforated with 
holes, so that when surrender is imperative the whole 
thing is dropped overboard, that it may not fall into the 
hands of the enemy. Even this, however, owing to the 
death of the responsible officer, or other cause (for in the 



70 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

and liim, of wliicli they sliortly after made 
that barbarous use as was agreable to their 
natures, and published them in print : that 
is, so much of them as they thought would 
asperse either of their Majesties, and improve 
the prejudice they had raised up against them ; 
and concealed other parts that would have 
vindicated them from many particulars with 
which they had aspersed them." The battle 
of Naseby occurred on Saturday, June 14th, 
1645. On June 23rd the House of Commons 
resolved " that the several letters and papers 
taken at Naseby Field should be referred to 
the Committee, to translate the French letters, 
decipher those that are not deciphered, and 
to sort them." It was also resolved that these 
letters and papers should be communicated 
to the Committee of both Kingdoms, " to the 

heat of action a man may lose his head, though to out- 
ward appearance without a scar), is not always an efficient 
safeguard. Within a mile of Charing Cross, in the Royal 
United Service Museum, may be seen the weighted signal 
code of the United States ship Chesapealie, captured on 
board that vessel by the British ship Shannon. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 7 1 

intent that they may take copies to transmit 
into Scotland and to foreign parts, and tbat 
the said letters and papers shall be put in 
a safe and public hand and place, to the end 
that such as desire it may peruse the ori- 
ginals." Some sixty letters were captured. 
Many on receipt had been already deciphered 
by the King or Queen, and the translation 
appended to them for greater ease of reading, 
Charles I. during the course of the war 
composed a great many ciphers, and sonae 
of them of very abstruse character. His cele- 
brated letter to the Earl of Glamorgan, in 
which some very suspicious concessions to the 
Catholic party in Ireland were mooted, was 
composed entirely of short strokes in different 
directions ; but his favourite idea was the 
use of numbers, and the Naseby letters were 
of this latter type. A good many " dummy " 
numbers are introduced, in addition to those 
that stand for letters or words. Such dum- 
mies are of course intended to throw those 



72 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

who are unauthorized to read the letters off 
the scent, and some such arrangement is very 
common as a cryptographic expedient. They 
are known as nulles or non-significants also, 
and we shall come across numerous examples 
of their use ere our book is finished. Various 
people are also numbered, and the names of 
places that are likely to frequently recur. 
This is clearly a great saving of time, as 
instead of having to spell out Prince Eupert 
or Oxford in full a couple of numbers will 
at once express all we want, and of course 
the same principle is applied to such con- 
stantly wanted words as artillery, regiment, 
provisions, and the like. Where words are 
of more immaterial and non-betrayal cha- 
racter, they are often written in full ; thus, 
for instance, we find the Queen writing to the 
King as follows : " Mr. Capell nous a fait 
voir que cij 27 ' 23 • 52 • 62 • 2S * 45 • 9 * 6G • 4 • 
48 • 31 • 10 • 50 • 35 • 33 • 47 • 31 • 8 • 50 que ce 
34 • 8 • 27 • 28 • 23 • 17 • 16 • 3 cf^t tout 33 • 8 • 50 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 73 

• 5 • 62 cesi ;pour qimj si 60 * 4 * 46 • 189 • 18 * 
69 • 2 • 70 intantion de donner 62 • 40 • 11 •." 

In one letter of the sorely troubled Queen 
slie writes tliat matters have so harassed 
her, " que je suis extremement tourmantee 
die mat de teete qui fait que je mesteray 
en syfre ])ar mi autre qui jovois fait moy 
mesmey ^ The trusted new hand then comes 
and finishes the letter in English. We give 
the commencement, and place over the sym- 
bols their significance : " Theer beeing hear 



S 

a 47 • 35 • 


n 
39 • 


n 
40 


e 
• 7 • 


f 
35 • 16 


KD 
• 192 • 


tha 


hat 
31 • 17 • 46 


. h 
• 31 


•21 


r 
• 51 


e a 
•7-17 


t c 
• 45 • 11 


r 
•50 


d i t 
5 • 27 • 45 • 


w 

58 • 


i 
27- 


t 
45 • 


h h 
31 • 31 


i s 
•27-47 


f 
•15 


a t h 
17 • 45 • 31 


e 

• 7 • 


r 
50 


ffoei] 


le: now 


f r 
16 • 51 • 




32 



m Ho 

42 • 164," and so forth. The rest of the 

^ " Which causes me to be extreamly troubled with the 
headach and to make use of another for the writing in 
cypher which J should have done else myselfe." — Parlia- 
ment translation. 



74 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

letter goes on in the same manner, but we 
need not repeat the figuring. The transla- 
tion of it is that " 260 thought fitt to 
speake to him to solicit KD at his arriuall 
for to dispatch of 6000 amies to be sent 
to ]Sr to arme the Scottch or to imploy any 
other way 189 shall thinke good. "WM be- 
ing returned hath aduertised 260 that some 
Englishe Catholiques in P haue layed their 
purses together for supply of armes for 189. 
260 doth therefore desire 189 to aduertise 
WM of the place where they are to be sent. 
189 may write to WM iii the cipher 189 
hath with 260.'* This was clearly a docu- 
ment to be veiled in cipher. The publica- 
tion of these letters by the Parliamentarians 
caused great excitement, we are told — a mat- 
ter to be scarcely wondered at, — and we can 
well imagine that KD and WM, 189 and 
260, would take uncommonly good care to 
keep the Channel between themselves and the 
victorious Puritans. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 75 

It will nofc have escaped the notice of 
the careful reader that, while some of the 
letters in the little extract we have given 
are each time they occur represented by the 
same number, — H, for instance, being always 
31, — others vary, so that N is represented by 
39 or 40, T is 45 or 46, and R is 50 or 51. 
This changing of the symbol is frequently 
resorted to in cryptography, or a little 
patient analysis of a communication would 
presently throw light upon it. First a small 
clue would be gained, and then more and 
more would follow. E, for instance, is the 
letter that occurs most commonly in English; 
therefore, unless the symbols are changed, the 
one that occurs oftenest will mean E.^ 

1 A curious old iDscription over the decalogue in a 
country church runs as follows : — 

PRSVRYPIIFCTMNYRKPTHSPRCPTSTN. 

It is said that the meaning of this was not discovered for 
two hundred years ; but if our readers will add to these 
letters a sufficient sprinkling of one more letter — "E " — 
they will have no difficulty in converting it into " Per- 
severe, ye perfect men ; ever keep these precepts ten." 



76 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

Double L is a common final, so if we find 
two similar symbols recurring at ends of 
words we may at least think them to be 
LL. Of course they may be double SS, 
another common termination; but if we as- 
sume them for the time being to be LL, 
then we may look up ELL. That means 
very little, but it is at all events some- 
thing to build a theory on. Then we think 
of sell, well, fell, and maybe add another 
letter to our store. All this of course is 
very speculative and tentative, but it is in 
this direction that he who would decipher a 
cryptogram must proceed. 

As another illustration of the number ci- 
pher we may instance that used by Sir 
llalph Verney. An example of it may be 
found in the " Notes of Proceedings of the 
Long Parliament," that may be seen in the 
valuable reproductions issued by the Cam- 
den Society. The editor makes the follow- 
ing note : " The following numerals Avritten 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 77 

in pencil by the hand of Sir Ealph Verney 
look like an attempt to take notes in a ci- 
pher. The numbers range from 1 to 28. I 
add them here in the hope that the in- 
genuity of some reader may discover their 
meaning." As they evidently entirely non- 
plussed him, one hardly sees why he should 
somewhat slightingly have called them "an 
attempt " to " take notes." If we come 
across a slab in the British Museum covered 
with arrow-head forms, we may scarcely 
legitimately regard it with supercilious in- 
difference, or, at best, contemptuous tolera- 
tion, as the quaint attempt of some poor 
Assyrian ignoramus to record something or 
other ; nor should we lament from our 
higher level the vainglorious conceit of some 
Chinaman who evidently thinks that his queer 
characters mean something. 

A Mr. Cooper, in the year 1853, succeeded 
in deciphering the figures, and they proved 
to be rough notes of matters referred to 



78 CR YPTOGRAPH V 

in Parliament. Tliougli there can be no 
doubt of the correctness of the key that has 
unlocked their significance, the fact is patent 
that Sir Ralph, writing probably against 
time and in the midst of many distractions, 
was not entirely at home in the cipher he 
employed, wrong characters being at times 
introduced. The following are examples of 
the cipher used by Sir Ealph Verney in 
making his memoranda : "28 * 17 — 15 • 22 * 5 • 
3 • 14 • 10 • 5 • 8—17 • 2—20 • 15 • 5 • 5 • 15 • 
3 • 8—5 • 17—6 • 15—14 • 20 • 17 • 18 • 15 • 
13—16 • 28—5 • 7 • 16 • 8—7 • 17 • 18 • 8 • 
15." This deciphers into : " No extracts of 
letters to be aloued in this House." An- 
other one reads : " 5 • 7 • 15—12 • 3 • 16 • 28 • 
10 • 15—16 • 8—28 • 17 • 7—10 • 17 • 27 • 15 • 
5 . 17—11 • 3 • 15 • 15 • 28 • 7 • 16 • 10 • 7," 
signifying " The prince is noli come to 
Greenhich." For the fourth word here we 
should probably read either now or not, 
the difference in sense being considerable^ 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 



79 



the direct contrast between an aflBrmative 
and a negative. *' Come to " is in the 
cipher run together into "cometo," but this 
was probably carelessness rather than craft. 

The ingenious and painstaking Mr. Cooper 
presently determined that the same numeral 
always stands for the same letter, and that 
is always a very helpful state of things for 
the decipherer. Of course A is not 1, and 
B 2, and C 3, and so forth in regular 
sequence, as that would be a great deal too 
easy an arrangement, so that it remains to 
find out what arbitrary arrangement has 
been made. On analysis it is found that 
the letters are represented by numerals as 
follows : — ■ 



2 = F 


8 = S 


14 = A 


22 = X 


3 = R 


9 = W 


15 = B 


25 = Y 


4 = K 


10 = 


16 = 1 


27 = M 


5 = T 


11 = G 


17 = 


28 = N 


6 = B 


12 = P 


18 = U 




7 = H 


13 -D 


20 = L 





So CR YP TOGRAPHY 

In tlie memoranda tliat have come to 
light we find no use of 1, 19, 21, 23, 24 or 
26, but on the other hand we find that by 
chance Yerney had no necessity to use in 
anything he wanted the less-commonly em- 
ployed letters J, Q, V, or Z ; we may 
therefore fairly assume that four of the 
missing numbers would be the equivalents 
of the four missing letters. 

For facility of reading anything already 
written, the table we have given, numbers 
and then letters, is the most useful; but 
if we desired to write anything ourselves, a 
table having first letters and then numbers 
is of more service. If we want to trans- 
late a good stiff piece of Russian, we turn 
to the Russian-English half of our diction- 
ary ; but if we desire to translate our own 
tongue into Russian, then we seek help from 
the English-Russian portion of our book. 
In the same way the sender of a crypto- 
gram uses " ordinary letter-cryptogrammic," 



OR CIPHER^WRITING 



8l 



while the receiver employs to translate it 
the ^' cryptogrammio-ordinary letter " table. 
For the purpose of the sender the Verney 
table should be as follows : — 



A=14 


H = 7 


= 17 


B = 6 


1=16 


P = 12 


C = 10 


J=l 


Q=19 


D = 13 


K = 4 


R = 3 


E = 15 


L = 20 


S = 8 


r=2 


M = 27 


T = 5 


G=ll 


N = 28 


U = 18 



V=21 

X = 22 
Y = 25 
Z=23 



We have assigned values to the /, Q, F, 
and Z, the letters missing in Verney's notes. 
If, therefore, we had desired to pass a little 
note across the House to Sir Verney, 
" Why do you use cipher ? '* we should have 
sent him the following : " 9 • 7 • 25—13 • 17— 
25 • 17 • 18—18 • 8 • 15—10 • 16 • 12 • 7 • 15 • 3." 
His supposititious reply to this supposititious 
message we leave to our readers to trans- 
late. It ran as follows : " 27 • 16 • 28 • 13— 

F 



82 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

25 • 17 • 18 3—17 • 9 • 28—6 • 18 • 8 • 16 • 28 • 
15 • 8 • 8," a remark that shows that while 
he felt our note an intrusion, also shows 
that we had succeeded in mastering the 
cipher he was employing. 

We also find a great revival of crypto- 
logy during the stormy period that has its 
central point in the flight of James II. and 
the landing of William III., when plot and 
counter-plot sought safety in the use of 
cryptograms. The adherents of Mary Queen 
of Scots and the followers of the Pre- 
tender were naturally also very proficient 
in their use. 

Edward Somerset, Marquis of Worcester, 
published in the year 1633 a little book 
called the " Century of Inventions." This 
nobleman was greatly addicted to scientific 
pursuits, and at the same time was in com- 
mand of a large body of troops under 
Charles I. He afterwards attached himself 
to the suite of Charles II. in exile in 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 83 

■ France, and being sent over by liim to 
London to procure intelligence and supplies, 
was speedily detected and put under lock 
and key in tlie Tower. He was set at 
liberty at tlie Kestoration. His enforced 
leisure in tlie Tower gave liim abundant 
leisure for study, while bis position as a 
man of affairs at so stormy a period ex- 
plains how it is that amongst his hundred 
inventions not a few deal with the various 
methods of secret communication. 

tit is of course beside our present mark 
to deal wdth the book as a whole. Suffice 
it to say that the majority of his inven- 
tions are of an entirely practical character, 
and the germ of the steam engine of to- 
day in all its mighty force and pervading 
utility is to be found in his observations. 
The closely fitting cover of a vessel in which 
he was preparing food in his apartment of 
the Tower was suddenly forced off by the 
pressure of the confined steam, and he drew 



84 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

from this tlie suggestion that such a force 
might be turned to useful account. 

That he himself believed in the value of 
his work is quaintly evident, for in the dedi- 
cation of his book to the King's most ex- 
cellent Majesty, plus Lords and Commons, 
on the sensible principle of having more 
than one string to his bow, he writes : 
*' The Treasures buried under these heads, 
both for War, Peace, and Pleasure, being 
inexhaustible I beseech you pardon if I say 
so : it seems a Vanity but comprehends a 
Truth : since no good Spring but becomes 
the more plentiful by how much more it is 
drawn: and the Spinner to weave his web 
is never stinted, but further inforc'd. The 
more then that you shall be pleased to make 
use of my Inventions the more Inventive 
shall you find me, one Invention begetting 
still another, and more and more improving 
my ability. And as to my heartiness therein 
there needs no addition, nor to my readi- 



I 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 85 

ness and spur. Therefore be pleased to 
begin, and desist not from commanding me 
till I flag in my obedience and endeavours to 
Serve my King and Country. 

For certainly you'l find me breathless first t'expire 
Before my hands grow weary, or my legs do tire." 

No. 1 on bis list is " Several Sorts of Seals, 
some shewing by scrues, others by gages, 
fastening or unfastening all the marks at once. 
Upon any of these Seals a man may keep 
Accompts of Receipts and Disbursements from 
one Farthing to an hundred Millions. By 
these Seals likewise any Letter, though written 
but in English may be read and understood in 
eight several languages, and in English itself 
to clean contrary and different sense, unknown 
to any but the Correspondent, and not to be 
read or understood either, if opened before it 
arrive unto him, so that neither Threats, nor 
hopes of Eeward, can make him reveal the 
secret, the letter having been intercepted by 
the Enemy." 



86 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

JN^o. 2 is a further development, showing how 
ten thousand people may use these wonder- 
ful seals and yet keep their secrets intact. 
No. 3 is "a Cypher or Character so con- 
trived, that one line, without returns or cir- 
cumflexes, stands for each and every of the 
24 letters, and as ready to be made for one 
letter as the other," while the inventive 
faculty in him, growing, as he declared it 
would, by use. No. 4 is *^ this Invention | 
refined and so abbreviated that a point 
onely showeth distinctly and significantly any 
of the 24 letters : and these very points to 
be made with two pens, so that no time 
will be lost, but as one finger riseth the 
other may make the following letter, never 
clogging the memory with several figures for 
words : which with ease and void of confusion 
are thus speedily and punctually, letter for 
letter, set down by naked and not multiplied 
points. And nothing can be less than a 
point." One almost wonders that he did not 



OR CIPHER-WRITING Sj 

hit upon the idea of clipping his fingers in 
the ink and so making four or five points at 
once instead of being content with two. His 
fifth invention is " a way by a Circular motion 
either along a Rule or Eing wise, to vary 
any Alphabet, so that the self-same Point 
individually placed, without the least ad- 
ditional mark or variation of place, shall stand 
for all the 24 letters, and not for the same 
letter twice in ten sheets writing : yet as 
easily and certainly read and known as if it 
stood but for one and the self same letter 
constantly signified." 

We were first made acquainted with the 
labours of the Marquis by a reference to 
them in an educational work, but pre- 
ferring ahvays, where at all practicable, 
to go to the original, we turned it up in 
the magnificent Library — the students' Para- 
dise — at the British Museum. We note 
with great regret that the author gives 
no further clue to his inventions than such 



88 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

sliort sketch as we have already quoted \ 
in the case of one or two of them. This 
fifth invention of his, the constant shifting 




Fig. 8. 



of significance of letters rule or ring- wise, is 
very descriptive, however, of two methods, or 
rather perhaps one method in two forms, that 
was largely in use in the middle ages. Fig. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 89 

8 is an illustration. We draw a circle on a 
fairly stout piece of cardboard and divide its 
circumference into twenty-six equal parts, and 
in these divisions we place the letters of the 
alphabet in the regular ABC sequence of 
ordinary usage. We then cut out a somewhat 
smaller circle from one card and divide the 
edge of this also into twenty-six equal parts, 
and in these we place the alphabet letters in 
any haphazard fashion we choose. We next 
cut this out and place it in the centre of the 
first and drive a good strong pin through 
the centre, the result being that the upper 
card revolves freely on the under one, enabling 
us to bring any letter of the one in a line 
with any letter of the other. The person 
with whom we are corresponding has a similar 
arrangement, an(J we arrange together that, 
as in Fig. 8, J shall be adjusted to A. 
We then spell the words out, the true 
letters being those of the outer circle, but 
representing them by those of the inner. If 



90 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

then we desire by means of this diagram to 
write the word February, it would come out 
as DZOXEJXT. The sender reads from the 
outer circle to the inner one, while the re- 
ceiver reads the characters from inner to 
outer, a glance at the two circles showing 
him that D is really F, that Z is E, and so 
on. This may be used, as set, for a time ; but 
if we want to circumvent the ingenious med- 
dler who begins to think that he has got a 
clue through our continuous use of the same 
equivalents, all that is necessary is to give 
the upper card a gentle push and A, B, C, etc., 
are now represented on the inner circle by en- 
tirely different letters, and the too ingenious 
onlooker is at once thrown off the scent. Our 
correspondent must of course know of this 
and give his card a similar turn, but this 
may easily be arranged. It might, for in- 
stance, be that two similar letters followed 
by a different one should convey the hint; 
thus, KKQ would mean that at this point we 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 



91 



shift our inner alphabet till the letter within 

A should be Q; and if we like 

in the course of a page or two 

to change again, then BBX 

would convey the hint to spin 

the circle round until X became 

the new equivalent of A. 

This combination of the fixed 
and revolving circles is a most 
excellent one, its only drawback 
being that it is perhaps a little 
difficult to read the radiating 
letters, as while only one is ab- 
solutely straight up the others 
begin to lean away at gradually 
increasing angles, till we get at 
last to one that is absolutely 
upside-down. After all, how- 
ever, a little practice should 
make the reading of them a 
very easy matter; but to those 
who feel a difficulty Fig. 9 fjg. 9. 





L 






Y 






D 






A. 


L 


A® 


B@ 


c® 


D© 


E® 


F® 


C ® 


H® 


1 © 


K ® 





92 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

should come as a boon and a blessing 
wliere the " Ring- wise " arrangement is 
changed for that " along a Rule." We 
must confess ourselves that the compact- 
ness of No. 8 more than compensates to 
our mind for any topsy-turvjdom, Fig. 9 
being a long rambling sort of thing to keep 
in one's desk, and possessing great possibilities 
of being torn when turned oyer amongst other 
papers. We have only drawn a portion, less 
than half — the proportion in fact that AK, 
the part we have shown, bears to AZ. To 
make this key a somewhat broad strip of 
card has twenty-six openings cut or punch- 
ed in it, and opposite to these, in regular 
sequence, are placed the letters of the al- 
phabet. A slit is then cut at top and 
bottom, and a narrower strip of card is 
inserted so that it will slip, not too easily, 
up and down. All along this, at the same 
distances apart as the openings on the 
broader strip, are placed the letters of 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 93 

the alphabet in any irregular order. When 
the whole twenty-six letters have found a 
resting place, the strip should still be so 
long as to admit of the repetition of the first 
six or eight, as what we want is not only a 
letter to appear opposite the A, B, C, down to 
the end, but also some little surplus, so that 
the slip can be moved up and down so as 
to bring other combinations in. Of course 
the reader, on inspection of our figure, sees 
that in principle it is identical with the circular 
card method already shown, that "head" 
would be XVET, and that we could at once 
vary the equivalents by sliding the narrow 
strip upwards or downwards. If we slipped 
it down imtil D came opposite to A, then 
''head'' would no longer be XYRT, but 
BEDN. Our correspondent must clearly be 
informed of any such shifting, and of course 
any accidental shifting of the sliding piece 
must be guarded against. The merest glance 
that the proper key letter is still opposite to 



94 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

A will suffice to sliow wliether any movement 
has taken place. 

To revert now to our ingenious Marquis. 
After devoting the first five of his "Century" to 
cryptography, he remembers that after all there 
are other matters that may be dealt with too ; 
but cryptography crops up again at No. 33, 
and this and Nos. 34, 35, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 
42, and 43 are all devoted to suggestions for 
secret communication, though some of them 
are of a very forced character and having no- 
thing to do with writing at all. Fig. 40, for 
instance, is to be worked by the sense of smell, 
pegs of sandal- wood, cedar, rosewood, and so 
forth being so arranged and grouped that 
even in the dark a message could be composed 
or discriminated ; while another method trusts 
to the taste, pegs being dipped in alum, salt, 
aloes, etc., and distinguished by touching them 
with the tongue. It is scarcely to be imagined 
that even amongst the blind such a sensitive- 
ness to smell or taste could be developed as 



OR CIPHER- WRITING 95 

would make these fancies workable realities. 
We sliould imagine that some sixty or eighty 
applications of the tongue would end in a com- 
[plete dulling of the perception, while one could 
scarcely imagine anything much more nauseous 
than a course of peg-tasting for half an hour of 
alum, castor oil, saccharine, turpentine, cod- 
liver oil, lavender water, salt, and as many 
more strongly flavoured ingredients as would 
ibuild up an alphabet. One of his methods 
is by a knotted string, and another he calls 
a bracelet alphabet. After No. 43 he devises 
a new tinder box, an artificial bird, and so 
on; but at No. 52 we find him harping on 
the old string again, if devising an alphabet by 
the ''jangling the Bells of any parish church " 
can be so termed, and at No. 75 we are in- 
structed " how a tape or ribbon weaver may set 
down a whole discourse without knowing a 
letter, or interweaving anything suspicious of 
other secret than a new-fashioned ribbon." 
It is certainly very remarkable that when 



96 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

the Marquis had the whole field of possible 
inventions open to him, he should have devoted 
so large a proportion of his book to the think- 
ing out of so many schemes in this one narrow 
field of investigation. 

The bracelet alphabet idea has been utilised, 
and cryptographic messages may readily be 
conveyed by means of any coloured objects 
such as beads or precious stones. If we take, 
for example, some red, green, yellow, black, 
blue, and white beads, we can so arrange them 
in pairs, each pair representing one letter of 
the alphabet, as to be able to spell out any 
communication. Such a bracelet or string of 
beads could be worn on the person, or sent 
amongst other trinkets without exciting any 
special observation. Receiver and sender 
would mutually arrange a scheme of lettering 
by this aid of colours, and if at any time this 
were discovered a re-arrangement of the 
colours would alone be necessary for a fresh 
departure, and these variations could be made 



OR CIPHER-WRIThXG 97 

in an immense number of ways. By way of a 
start we would suggest the following key: — 

A = red and green N = white and red 

B = yellow and green = green and white 

C = red and yellow , P = black and green 

D=yellow and black Q = white and green 

E = red and black R = white and black 

F = black and yellow S = yellow and white 

Gr — green and black T== white and yellow 

H= yellow and red U V = green and green 

1 J = green and yellow ^7= black and white 

K= green and red X= red and red 

L= black and red Y= yellow and yellow 

M=red and white Z= black and black 

Beads of turquoise blue colour can be used 
to divide words, or tliey may be inserted 
anywliere as non-significants. If tlie beads 
themselves are not available, the initials 
of the colours will suffice ; thus, if we can- 
not actually express A by a red and a green 
bead, we can by RG. As B is already re- 
quired for black, the blue must be T for 
turquoise. Ignoring T wherever it comes, 
the letters mast always be read in pairs, as it 
takes two of these to signify the real letters of 

G 



98 CRYPTOGRAPH y 

the message, and, knowing tliis, any number of 
accidental breaks, as misleaders, may be in- 
troduced. "Mind see Cecil" would therefore 
read EWGYWRYBYWRBTRBEYTRTBRY- 
GYBRT or RWTGY WRYBT YWRB 
TRBRBT RTBRYG YBRTT, or any other 
arbitrary breaking-up of these particular let- 




ters into sham words to mislead investigators 
that we chose to make. 

In Fig. 10 we have strung the actual beads, 
marking their colours by the signs used in 
heraldic work.^ Their message is the begin- 
ning of "Mind see Cecil." 



1 Should any of our readers not know these, they would 
find it useful to learn them, as they come in very service- 
ably not only in finding from these signs the actual 
colours of arms engraved in illustrations, book plates, and 
the like, but they are also very useful as a shorthand 
•way of expressing colours for any purpose, as, for example, 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 99 

A curious form of early ciplier may be 
seen iu Fig. 11. Eacli of tlie persons 
desirous of communicating Tvitli eacli other 
was provided with a similar strip of board 
or stout card. Along the top of this was 
placed the alphabet, either according to the 
common order of the letters or in any irreg- 
ular fashion, so long only as they all made 
their appearance somewhere in the series. A 
knot was then tied at the end of a piece of 
string, and by it, through a hole made at the 
top of the strip, the string was held in its 
place. The sides of the strip of wood or card- 
board were notched, and the string was wound 
round tightly and was held in these teeth or 
notches and secured at the bottom by being 
inserted in a cut. On this string the person 



our beads. Gold or yellow are indicated by dots, -while 
silver or white are left qnite plain. Red is shown by a 
series of upright lines and blue by horizontal ores, while 
black is known by being marked in plaid by lines both 
horizontally and vertically disposed. Green is indicated 
by inclined lines downwards from right to left. 



100 



CRYPTOGRAPHY 



sending the message made a mark witli ink or 
colour in a line witli any desired letter. The 
message being thus spelt out, the string was 
unfastened and then wrapped round a package 
or in some such inconspicuous way got into the 
hands of the receiver. He, on its receipt, 
wound it round his counterpart board and was 




Fig. 11. 



enabled, readily enough, to read off the com- 
munication. Fig. 11 is only a small portion of 
such a board, though sufficient to indicate its 
use. We have commenced upon it the mes- 
sage *^ First chance not till May," but our 
space enables us to show but a very limited 
portion of this. The first line gives us FIRST, 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 10 1 

but t)ie second line only gives CH, as the A we 
want next comes before C and H in the alpha- 
bet and must therefore come on tlie next row. 
If we marked it on the same row, we should get 
ACH, and this is no use to us. The onlj 
drawback to this method of communication is 
that, unless each party stretches the string 
with equal tension all through, the marks will 
not in the second winding come in quite the 
right places. A slip along of only one letter 
space would turn FIRST into GJSTU, to the 
great bewilderment of the receiver of this 
enigmatical message. 

Lord Chancellor Bacon was an enthusiast 
in cryptology. He laid down the law in 
quite Johnsonian style in this and many other 
matters. The three essentials of a good 
cipher, he very justly declared, were facility in 
execution, difficulty in solution, clearness from 
suspicion. This latter item is perhaps not 
very clearly put; his meaning is safety from 
the decipherment of those for whom the com- 



102 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

munication was not intended. A method that 
he himself devised, he with calm assurance 
introduced as "a cypher of our own which 
has the highest perfection of a cypher, that 
of signifying omnia 'par omnia, anything by 
everything." This sounds most convincing 
and awe-inspiring. It is ordinarily said that 
people will accept a man pretty much at the 
valuation he sets on himself; but when one 
presently re-reads this Baconian dictum, and 
asks what it means, perhaps the truest answer 
would be " very little." 

As a cipher it is not of any great merit, 
and it sins grievously against his own first 
rule, since it is by no means facile in use. He 
employs only the letters A and B, and arranges 
these in groups of five for the different letters. 
If then we desire to send a message of fifty 
letters, it would be necessary to use two 
hundred and fifty. It is therefore far too 
slow in operation ; even if one had the various 
formulae at one's finger's ends, it would involve 



I 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 



103 



five times the labour of ordinary writing. 
When we once know that each group of five 
stands for a single letter, it is as liable of 
discovery, on the same principles of decipher- 
ment, as a simpler arrangement. Of course, if 
Bacon had not published this clue, the task 
would have been immensely more difficult, and 
it is only just to his method to frankly and 
fully say so. 

The cipher was composed as follows: — 



A=AAAAA 
B=AAAAB 
C=AAABA 
D=AAABB 
E=AABAA 
E =AABAB 
G=:AABBA 
H = AABEB 



I -ABAAA 
K=ABAAB 
L = ABABA 
M = ABABB 
N=ABBAA 
0=ABBAB 
P^ABBBA 
Q=ABBBB 



R=BAAAA 
S =BAAAB 
T =BAABA 
U -BAABB 
W = BABAA 
X=BABAB 
Y =BABBA 
Z =BABBB 



We shall the better see the cumbrous nature 
of this cipher if we endeavour to apply it. 
Such a word, for instance, as cryptogram 
would become by this code — 



AAABABAAAABABBAABBBABAABAABBAB 
AABBABAAAAAAAAAABABB 



104 



CRYPTOGRAPHY 



In tlie same cumbrous fasliion, and based 
on the same lines as that of Bacon, is the 
following, which we extract from an old 
encyclopedia: — 



A = lllll 
B = 11112 
C =11121 
D=11122 
E =11211 
F =11212 
G= 11221 
H = 11222 
I =12111 



J =12112 
K = 12122 
L =12211 
M = 12212 
N = 12221 
0=12222 
P =21111 
Q =21112 
11=21121 



S =21122 
T =21211 
U =21212 

V =21221 
W = 12121 
X =22212 

Y =22221 
Z =22122 



The intervals between the words were to 
be marked by 333. If we wished to ask 
our correspondent to " come soon now," we 
should have to set forth the following unwieldy 
arrangement : — 

1112112222122121121133321122122221222212221 
333122211222212121 



Another plan that has been sometimes 
adopted may be illustrated by the following 
cumbersome example from Trithemius, where 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 105 

only the second letter in each word counts, and 
all the rest is mere padding : " Baldach abasar 
lemai clamech abrach misach abrai disaria 
athanas." This, after all, only signifies " Abel 
bibit," and it has taken fifty-six letters to give 
nine ! 

n//bqA)Cct)nt-OC 
Y. O ± 4+f 8 4> /^ r+- A Hi 

Fig! 12. 

In some of the Elizabethan ciphers neither 
letters nor figures are used; but in place of 
them we find merely arbitrary forms, such as 
those we have represented in Fig. 12. But 
this, though it looks at first sight very mys- 
terious, has no more real element of difficulty 
in it than the use of the letters of the alphabet. 



1 06 CR YPTOGRAPHY 

It is really immaterial whether we spell cat 
with a curved line (that we have learnt to call 
0), and two sloping lines coming to a point 
and a horizontal line across their centre (that 
we have got used to as A), and a third symbol 
made up of an upright line and then a hori- 
zontal line across its top (a form that we are 
accustomed to call T), or whether we decide 
that C instead shall be made of two lines 
crossing at their centres, while A shall be a 
thing made up of two circles, like a figure 8 
turned sideways. If we recognise that a cer- 
tain form is the symbol of a certain letter, we 
soon learn to recognise this form when we see 
it, and its shape is a matter that is absolutely 
indifferent to us. If the letters of our present 
alphabet had not been the shapes we know 
them, but something entirely different, it would 
still have been our alphabet, and it is as easy 
to write dog in Greek or German letters, or in 
these grotesque forms of Fig. 12, as in the 
letters in which this page before us is printed. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 1 07 

AYhy should not the ten upper forms in Fig. 
12 spell cryptogram just as well as CRYPTO- 
^ GRAM does ? In the one case we are used to 
the forms employed, and in the other case we 
are not. That is really the only difference. 



CHAPTER III 

Is an undecipherable cryptogram possible P — The art of 
deciphering — Keys for the analysis of a cryptogram — Oft 
recurring letters — Great repetition of Towels — Patient 
perseverance — Papers on the subject in Gentleman's 
Magazine of 1742 — Yalue of general knoTvledge — Conrad's 
rules — The letter E — " Noughts and crosses " cryptogram 
— Its construction — Ciphers from agony columns of Stan- 
dard and Times — Prying busybodies — Alternate letters 
significant — Ciphers based on divers shiftings of the 
letters — Cryptogram in Cocker's *' Arithmetick " — In- 
ventor in 1761 of supposed absolutely secret system — His 
hopes and fears thereon— Illegal to publish Parliamentary 
debates — Evasion of the law— Poe's use of cryptogram 
in story— Secret marks made by tramps and vagrants — 
Shop ciphers for marking prices on goods — Crypto- 
grammic trade advertisements — Examples of cipher 
construction— The "grill" cipher—The "revolving grill" 
— The " slip-card " — Forms of numerical cipher — The 
"Mirabeau" — Count Grousfield's cipher — Communi- 
cation by use of a dictionary — The "Newark" — Tiio 
" Clock-hands " — The " two-word" cipher — Conclusion. 

rpiHE question as to whether a cipher has 
ever been devised that could for all time 
successfully defy patient investigation will 
naturally occur to our readers. Some would 
have it that as all the advantages are in favour 

108 



CIPHER- WRITING 1 09 

of the ingenious cryptographist, it should not 
be impossible to build up a monument of 
ingenuity that should be safe from all assault, 
and certainly this is an opinion that commends 
itself to us as a very reasonable one. Others 
would tell us that nothing that the wit of man 
could devise is safe from the wit of some other 
man to search out. However this may be, — 
and the point, of course, can never be settled, 
— we must bear in mind that what to the 
ordinary man is hopeless may not prove so to 
the deftly-trained ingenuity of the expert. A 
cryptogram in Paris that was deciphered some 
few years ago for the French Government took 
accompHshed experts just six months to lay 
bare, and the ordinary amateur would scarcely 
attack any problem with such dogged deter- 
mination as that. 

In the art of deciphering it is emphatically 
the case that " practice makes perfect." There 
are certain very definite rules, too, that prove 
of immense assistance in the analysis of a 



no CRYPTOGRAPHY 

cryptogram. There are special conditions, 
however, for each language, " 0," for example, 
being a much more freely used letter in 
Spanish or Italian than in English. In the 
English language " E " is the letter that occurs 
with the greatest frequency. The easiest 
cipher to translate is that where each letter 
in it always stands for some other individual 
letter, where K, for instance, always means F, 
or P may be recognised as L all through. 
Where too the symbols, puzzlitig though they 
be, are always arranged as in an ordinary com- 
munication, and broken up into words. A 
cipher at once becomes immensely more diffi- 
cult if the letters change their significance, so 
that, as in the revolving card we have already 
illustrated, E, for instance, may be sometimes 
written as J, at others as S, or M, or X. We 
at once add greatly, too, to the puzzle if the 
words .are all joined into one, or are arbitra- 
rily broken up. Non- significants also add to 
the difficulties of analysis, and it is a good plan 



OR CIPHER-WRITING III 

to cut out every " and " and " the " and such- 
like common words that can at all be spared. 
The English tongue abounds in monosyllables. 
Of course the letters that necessarily qccur 
most commonly are the vowels, and in words 
of two letters, such as am, in, of, or we, one of 
them is necessarily a vowel. E is not only the 
commonest letter in use in English, but it also 
very frequently occurs in couples ; been, seen, 
feet, sweet, agreed, speed, are examples. EA 
and OU are the double vowels that most com- 
monly go together, as in pear, early, and ease, 
or our, cloud, or rough. A single letter will 
be A, or I, or 0. Of all English words " the " 
is the one that most commonly occurs, and 
"and" runs it very closely. If, therefore, we 
have determined that the commonest symbol of 
all in our mysterious cryptogram is E, then 
if a very constantly recurring word of three 
letters ends with this same symbol, we may 
begin to hope that we have found out H and 
T. EE, 00, LL, SS, are the doubled letters 



112 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

of most usual occurrence ; see, feet, tool, 
sliall, well, miss, and loss are illustrations. 
A begins three very common two -letters, an, 
as, and at, and begins of, on, or, and 
ends do, go, no, so, to. In by far the great 
majority of words the first or second letter 
is a vowel. Q always has TJ after it. JS^o 
English word terminates with I. It is on 
such bases as these, vague as some of them 
may seem, that the decipherer works. There 
is no royal road; nothing but delicate dis- 
crimination and unlimited patience will a- 
chieve success. 

When certain equivalents are determined, 
they should at once be written down. We 
may now take any word in which any one 
or more of them occur, and substitute them 
for the symbols standing for them, and then 
just put dots for the others until more light 
dawns. Very often this proceeding at once 
suggests the whole word, and if so we have 
at once gained a knowledge of other charac- 



\ 



OR CIPHER-WRITING II3 

ters and soon get a long way towards build- 
ing up our key. If, for instance, we liave 
discovered by analysis tliat X, L, and P are 
really A, I, and T, and \Ye come across the 
words FXLTNXO JPXPLER, we set them 
down as follows : • AI • • A • • TATI • •, and it 
presently begins to dawn upon us that the 
words "railway station'* would just fit in. 
We at all events accept this tentatively. 
If we are right we have added largely to 
our store, for we now see that F must 
really be R, T must be L, N must be W, 
will be Y, J is S, E must be 0, while 
R represents N. Our knowledge of three let* 
ters has thus given us seven others. If we 
presently find in the cryptogram the group 
of letters JQXTT, we remember that we 
know X to be really A, and our railway 
station guess has led us to believe that 
J is really S, and T is L; we try how it 
looks if we turn JQXTT into S • ALL. This 
suggests to us small, stall, and shall, so Q is 

II 



114 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

eitlier M or H ; we know that tlie word is 
not stall, because T we already know is 
shown by P. One or two endeavours at words 
containing Q will determine for us whether we 
shall read it as M or H. Z, the commonest 
symbol of all, we have decided at once to be 
E, and PQZ offcen recurs. T'E is evidently 
THE, so Q is not M, — for there is no word 
TME — but H. JQXTT is therefore SHALL. 
So by patient analysis, sometimes by success, 
sometimes by failure, sometimes by guessing 
what it might be, sometimes by seeing what 
it could not be, we step by step press on. 
The man who would pull down a wall finds 
it difficult to make a start, but when he has 
once got his pick fairly into a joint the first 
brick is presently got out, and then all the 
others follow, every brick removed making 
the work easier. The first insertion of the 
quarryman's wedge wants considerable skill; 
blow after blow of the swinging hammers 
fall swiftly then upon it, and each tells, 



OH CIPHER-WRITING 1 15 

until presently tlie great block of many tons 
in weight is riven in twain. 

In the Gentleman^ s Magazine for the year 
1742 will be found an interesting series of 
papers on the art of deciphering, entitled 
" Gryptographia denudata,*^ the author being 
David Arnold Conradus. After a general 
introduction he first proceeds, curiously 
enough, in an English magazine, to an 
exposition of the German language, point- 
ing out the characteristic recurrences of 
letters, terminations of words, and so forth, 
by which one may attack a cryptogram 
in that language. He then proceeds with 
equal thoroughness to analyse the Dutch 
language, then the Latin, English, French, 
Italian, and Greek. He writes : " The Art of 
Deciphering being an abstruse Subject I pur- 
pose in this Attempt to explain it with 
Accuracy and Perspicuity, and I doubt not 
by this Undertaking both of gratifying the 
Curiosity of the Inquisitive, and of convinc- 



Il6 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

ing tliose of tlie Certainty of the Art who 
have hitherto questioned it. There are to be 
found Men of uncommon Capacity who are 
ready to assert with great Confidence that 
no Success is to be expected from Enquiries 
so doubtful and uncertain in their Nature. 
There are these whose Credulity and Super- 
stition set them almost below Mention, who 
pronounce no less positively that the Inter- 
pretation of private Characters, if it ever can 
be attained, is the effect of Magic. The Art 
of Deciphering is the Practice of interpreting 
Writings composed of Secret Characters, so 
that the true sense and words of the Writer 
shall be exactly known. This Art, however 
difficult it may appear, will be admired for 
its Simplicity and the Ease with which it may 
be attained, when the Theory of it is under- 
stood, which depends upon many certain and 
a few probable Propositions. The Usefulness 
of Arts by w^hich suspected and dangerous 
Correspondences may be detected cannot be 



OR CIPHER-WRITING II7 

denied, nor is it a small Incitement to tlie 
Study of it that those who profess it are em- 
ployed by Princes, in time of War particularly, 
and rewarded with the utmost Liberality. 

** He that engages in this Study is supposed 
to be previously furnished with various kinds 
of Knowledge. He must be in the first Place 
Master of Orthography, that we may know 
what Letters are required for each Word. He 
should be acquainted with several Languages, 
and particularly Latin, which is most fre- 
quently made use of in secret Writings; and 
he will be a greater Master of this Art in pro- 
portion as his Knowledge of Languages is 
more extensive; for the Decipherer has to 
determine what the Language is, in which the 
secret Writing is composed, whether Latin, 
French, or any other ; and by this Art are to 
be discovered the peculiar Characteristics of 
each Language. 

"It is likewise necessary to understand at 
least the Elements of various Sciences, that 



Il8 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

the Sense of any Passage may be more easily 
discovered, and one word contribute to tlie 
Explication of anotliei*. Cryptograpliy, or 
the Art of writing in Ciphers, must likewise 
be understood, by which so many Artifices 
are jDracticed, so many intricate Alphabets 
formed, and so many Expedients for Secrecy 
produced as requires the utmost Acuteness 
to detect and explain. Upon the whole as 
a Man advances in Learning he becomes 
better qualified for a Decipherer. 

"By Accuracy of Method and a just De- 
duction of Particulars from Generals, is our 
Art exalted into a Science, consisting of cer- 
tain and indubitable Propositions, from whence 
the Rules are drawn, which are to be used 
as Clues in the Labyrinth of Cryptography." 

Truly our author magnifies his subject! 
He who would shine in it would be a man 
who might have been Solicitor-General or 
Primate of all England had he not chosen 
the path of the cryptographic expert I 



OR CIPHER-WRITING II9 

His rules spring rather quaintly from his 
propositions. Thus the proposition says "In 
a Writing of any Length the same Letters 
recur several times." Then the rule says 
"Writings of Length are most easy to de- 
cipher, because there are more Opportunities 
of remarking the Combination, Frequency, 
etc., of the Letters." One would have 
thought the proposition suflSciently clear to a 
man of ordinary intelligence, without need of 
what is practically a repetition of it : merely 
old matter under a new name. Another 
proposition says that " The Vowels are 
four times outnumbered by the Consonants, 
the Vowels must therefore recur most fre- 
quently." The rule that is based on this is 
as follows : " The Letters that recur most fre- 
quently are Vowels." 

Some of his suggestions are very good, 
while others do not seem so very helpful after 
all. Thus we are gravely told, if the writ- 
ing be in Dutch any three-letter word must 



1 20 CR YPTOGRAPHY 

either be aal or aap, aan, aen, als, amt, arm, 
arg, ast, bad, baf, bak, bal, ban, bas, bed, 
bef, bek, bel, ben, bes, bid, bik, bil, bit, bly, 
bok, bol, bon, bos, bot, bry, bul, bus, dag, 
dam, dan, das, dat, dek, den, der, des, die, 
dik, dis, dit, doe, dog, dol, dop, dor, dun, 
dur, djk, een, eer, eet, elf, elk, end, erf, 
eva, fjn, gal, gat, gek, git, plus one hundred 
and eiglity-two more right away through 
the alphabet till we pull up finally at zyn. 
Whether this list of all three-letter words 
be at all exhaustive, our ignorance of Dutch 
forbids us to say; but in the English section 
he roundly declares that any three-letter 
word in that language must, at all events, 
be one out of the list of one hundred and 
eight that he gives. On looking over this 
list, however, one quickly notes many omis- 
sions. The words, for instance, beginning 
with M that he gives are mad, man, may, 
and men ; but to these we may at once add 
mar, mat, map, maw, met, mew, mid, mob. 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 121 

mop, mow, mud, and mug. As we have 
thus readily amplified his four words under 
only one initial letter into sixteen, it will 
readily be seen that the same treatment all 
through the alphabet would prodigiously in- 
crease his grand total of one himdred and 
eight. His formula to be of practical use 
should therefore be extended into — "Any 
word of three letters will be found to be 
one of the following one hundred and eight, 
unless, perchance, it may be one out of the 
many scores of other three-letter words that 
we have omitted to include in our list." Be- 
sides, in any case, the list is utterly useless. 
If it were possible to say that any three- 
letter word must necessarily decipher into 
" and," or " the," or " but," the hint would be 
a most valuable one ; but when one can go no 
further than to say that it is either one of 
those three, or, more probably, one out of 
a list of four or five hundred other words, 
the help given is, after all, not of great 



122 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

value. Setting up as some little autliority 
on tlie matter ourselves, we may add to 
these rules of Conrad's one wliicli lie seems 
to have overlooked : that all words be- 
ginning with H will be found to be either 
horse or hallelujah, or else one of the hun- 
dreds of other words that commence with 
that letter. 

The letter E is the commonest in use of all 
the letters, not only in English but in all of 
the European languages. Statistical enthusi- 
asts assert that out of every thousand letters 
in any ordinary page of prose, one hundred 
and thirty-seven of them will in English be 
this letter. This is a matter that our 
readers, who are statistic and enthusiastic, 
can at once check from the page before 
them, if, indeed, we may assume it to fulfil 
the conditions named, and not sink beneath 
even ordinary prose. In a French book the 
letter E should occur about one hundred 
and eighty-four times per thousand, a 



OR CIPHER- WRITING 123 

mucli larger proportion than in English; 
wliile the German language runs the French 
very close, being one hundred and seventy- 
eight per thousand. Spanish and Italian 
are about^ the. same in this respect as Eng- 
lish; one hundred and thirty-one per thou- 
sand being assigned to Itahan, while in 
Spanish the letter E occurs one hundred 
and forty-five times. Of course, all these 
numbei*s are necessarily only approximate. 
The only letters of which more than ten per 
cent, occur are the I, iS", and ; the former 
coming out in Italian at about one hundred 
and three per thousand, the N at about one 
hundred and ten in German, and the at 
about one hundred and seven in each thou- 
sand letters used in Italian and Spanish 
writing and printing. 

An old fellow we once met, and who 
^prided himself on being rather clever at this 
art or science of decipherment, told us that 
he had, for the fun of the thing, joined in 



124 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

some of tlie " agony-column " advertisements 
in tlie newspapers, to the great perplexity 
of tlie original correspondents, and he 



CL 


f\x 


NQ 


SW 


HM 


TZ 


CE 


PU 


AJ 




+ XIE 

<LFruu->v->Li+ri:Fi:E 

D->]-|-n<->LCEX<nUElX 

(uriAnrc+A<]iLEx+F 

Fig. 13. 

further ventured the rather rash remark 
to us that he could unravel any cryp- 
togram. On this we sent him a message 
that had not a single E in it, as we 
knew that this letter was the first he would 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 



125 



endeavour to get hold of; and the final out- 
come might be considered a confession that 
he was beaten — at least, he never replied to 
our communication. The form of crjptogi'am 
we employed is rather a good one, and we 
have often used it on postcards, etc. Pro- 
bably most of our readers in their school- 
days have playc^d " noughts and crosses " 
when they ought to have been devoting their 
time instead to one of the subjects set down 
in the curriculum. Set out, then, two hori- 
zontal and two vertical lines, as shown in 
the upper part of Fig. 13, and place in the 
spaces made by them the various letters of 
the alphabet in pairs, so far as they will 
go. As a matter of fact, it will use up 
eighteen of them. Then place two other 
lines X-wise, as we may see, to the right 
of the previous arrangement, and in the 
four intervening spaces that these make 
place, also in pairs, the remaining eight 
letters. These letters may be arranged in 



126 



CRYPTOGRAPHY 



any order. Should it at any time appear 
that some unauthorized person has pene- 
trated the mystery, it would merely be 
necessary to shift the letters and start 
happily again. This shifting would be ar- 



PW 


EC 


KY 


UH 


LS 


^R 


ZD 


QT 


IM 




JECtXCVVUJREnEE 

v<">idECR]acnr<">Q+ 

Fig. 14. 

ranged as follows : — On counting the pairs 
of letters, we find, of course, that there are 
thirteen. Two in the first space, two in the 
second, and so on. Our present arrange- 
ment is 1CL2RX3NQ, and so forth. It 



OR CIPHER-WRITING 1 27 

is evident that if we merely sent our corre- 
spondent the new formula, 'as IP W2 E& 
3KY, any unauthorized person into whose 
hands it fell might reconstruct it. To avoid 
this, we should not place our figures in the 
ordinary numerical order, and we should use 
others beyond the thirteen. These would be 
non-significants, and any letters that fol- 
lowed them we should, on receipt, merely 
run our pens through. We have in the 
upper part of Fig. 14 given the new com- 
bination, and the formula for it might run as 
follows: 12FO370J5LS91OEA91M4UH, and 
so forth. We should, on getting this, draw 
out the skeleton lines and lightly number 
the spaces, and then proceed to construct 
our key, putting FO in the twelfth space, LS 
in the fifth, taking no notice of the CJ, as 
we have no thirty-seventh space to put it in. 
To use this cryptogram, we must note the 
shapes the lines make. The central space in 
the upper left-hand diagram in Fig. 13 is 



128 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

clearly a square; tlie space above would be 
a square, except that it has no top line ; 
the space to right of it is also a three- 
line figure, the square being incomplete for 
want of the right-hand line ; and the same 
applies to the space below, to the left 
and so on all round. The X-like figure 
gives us a Y-like form at top, a reversed V 
at base, and two other Y's that are turned 
sideways. For the first letter in each space 
we merely draw that space; thus H is a 
square, and the second letter we represent 
by a dot in the space. Below the X-like 
cross we have placed four forms that are 
merely dummies for use where we please; 
and such little -used forms as those for J, X, 
or Z may be also thus employed, as any one 
receiving and reading off the message would 
readily detect their non-essential character. 
In the lower half of Fig. 13 is the mes- 
sage we send by it — " On arriving at this 
point our Frank sat down." Below the 



OK, CIPHER-WRITING 1 29 

second combination, Fig. 14, we j)lace an- 
other communication; but this our readers, 
with the key before them, should find no 
ditficultv in deciphering for themselves, so 
we leave it to them. 

The following is from an advertisement in 
one of the London daily papers, the Standard 
of April 14th, 1892 :— 

SN NADX.— H vhkk miis rzx vgzs li 
gzud sgntfgs, — Nq vgzs rvdds sghmfr 
Izx qhrd tmrntfgs. — He h bntkc nmkx ad 
pthsd rtqd, — H sghmj h'c cqno tonm sgd 
ektqd !— AKZQMDX. 

It is of very easy construction, each letter 
being merely one forward in reality from the 
one here given, so that what is B is really 
A, what is Y is really W, and so on. It 
is the poetic effusion of one " Blarney " 
(AKZQMDX). It read as follows :— 

" I will not say what I have thought, 
Or what sweet things may rise unsought. 
If I could only be quite sure, 
I think I'd drop upon the flare." 

In the following from the Times, two letters 

I 



130 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

ahead of the real one are used : — *' Ngv og 
mpqy aqw ctg uchg cpf gcug oa vqtvwtgf 
okpf," meaning, " Let me know you are safe, 
and ease my tortured mind." 

In another limes notice F was substituted 
for A, Gr for B, etc. The story involved must 
have been a very sad one, and much sickness 
of heart was evident in its appeal. Three 
days later appeared in the same cipher the 
intimation, " I know you," evidently the work 
of some third person, and the correspondence 
at once came to an end. That this penetra- 
tion into matters deemed secret must often 
take place is evident from intimations that 
one not unfrequently sees that a certain ad- 
vertisement referred to was not inserted by 
the person whose name or other sign it bore. 
We may perhaps be allowed to say here 
that the illustrations of decipherment we 
have here given are published examples,^ that 

1 From an American book of the " Curiosities of 
Literature " type. 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 131 

in tlie case of the third we have foreborne to 
give the details, and that our strong feehng 
is that while those who make use of crypto- 
graphy do it at their own risk, and in some 
measure may be thought to be issuing a chal- 
lenge to bnsybodies,^ that nevertheless to pry 
into matters that do not concern one is a 
base and ungenerous thing to do ; that to 
decipher a communication not intended for 
ourselves is on a par with reading a letter 
that may be lying about, listening to a con- 
versation not intended for us, or any other 
such meanness. 

Some advertisements are so abbreviated, as 
so much business or sentiment has to be got 
into so narrow a space, that they verge on 
the cryptographic without any such intention 
— as, for instance, " so hpy in nw lime, so 
thnkf an mre hpfl fr yr ftre." 

^ A term a little wanting in accuracy, as used gene- 
rally to define those who have no proper work to busy 
themselves with, or who, having it, neglect it to attend 
to that of others. 



132 CR YPTOGRAPHY 

Several forms of cryptographic writing may 
readily be devised, not by changing the various 
letters into others, but retaining them as 
they are, a being a, b remaining b, and simply 
mixing them up with other letters that are 
merely blinds. Thus we may determine that 
alternate letters, say the second, fourth, sixtb, 
and so on, shall be the significants, the carriers 
of the message. For instance, if we desire 
to send the following communication, " Get 
away at once," it would read as " Lgpestra 
rwnapyi astro eniciel." We could break it 
up into any arbitrary groups of letters or 
run it all into one ; thus it might read, 
Egoentlavwxalyvaft Polnjcien. In either case 
all we should need to do to decipher it would 
be to run our pen through all the odd num- 
bers and then read off what was left, or 
put, as done here, a dot under each letter 
that is to count. It just doubles the length 
of the communication, a message of thirty 
letters requiring another thirty to conceal it. 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 33 

111 substitution for this we may make the 
first letter of the first word, the second of 
the second, and the third of the third, the 
significant letters, beginning again at the first 
of the next, then the second of the following 
one, and so on. " Get away at once " would 
then read, "go pey rst al Iwn afa yon ta sft 
of pn loc ei." By this means we have to 
employ a considerable number of non-signifi- 
cants. This is certainly a drawback, and it 
would in an especial degree be felt to be so 
the message to be conveyed were at all 

lengthy one. Such devices, however, have 
[' the advantage that the letters employed to 
;pell out the communication are the real letters, 
'here is no need to learn a code of substi- 
tuted characters, and one is also spared the 
shance of error that may spring from the use 
such a code. 

In the far-famed Cocker's ^ " Decimal, Loofa- 

^ " According to Cocker," i.e., au accuracy of statement 
mtirelj beyond question. The phrase occurs in a farce 
called The Apprentice, and hit the popular fancy. 



134 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

rithmical, and Algebraical Arithmetick," pub- 
lislied in tlie year 1684, we find, following 
the preface, a letter in cipher. All the vowels 
in this remain unchanged; A is A, and E 
is E, neither more nor less; and if we replace 
B.O.D.F.G.H.K.L.M.N.P.R.S.T.W.X.Z. by 
Z.X.W.T.S.R.P.N.M.L.K.H.G.F.D.C.B.— a 
mere reversal of the ordinary arrangement 
of the consonants, — we shall find no difficulty 
in reading the letter. By this code Constan- 
tinople would be XOLGFALFILOKNE. 

In the Gentleman's Magazine for 1761 we 
find a rather interesting letter from a man who 
flatters himself that he has devised an abso- 
lutely safe cryptogram. He declares that 
" when the present war was ready to break 
out, a gentleman, not versed in secret 
alphabets, but chancing to think upon the 
subject, happened to hit upon a kind of 
cipher, the properties of which appeared 
very extraordinary, not only to him but 
also to some of his friends not apt to make 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 35 

rasli conclusions. He therefore without de- 
lay endeavoured to convey notice of liis in- 
vention to his late Majesty : judging it might 
prove advantageous to the Royal Measures 
during a great and critical war to be waged 
at once in so many and so removed parts of 
the world. But this attempt, and likewise a 
second, had no effect. 

" In the meantime some of his friends, solici- 
tous to know the real merits of this cipher, 
procured that different specimens of it should, 
together with a brief detail of its properties, 
be laid before his Majesty's chief decipherer 
(esteemed the best in the world), requesting 
that he would be pleased to let them know 
whether he could or could not read those 
specimens, and begging his opinion upon the 
whole affair. The candid artist, having taken 
due time to peruse those writings, made 
answer that he could not read them, and 
that if they actually possessed the properties 
ascribed to them there could be no doubt 



136 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

about the importance of sucli an art. But 
it was not his business to meddle further in 
it. 

"It occurred to tlie author, when he had 
failed of making this art ad\^antageous to the 
British dominions, that he could easily sell 
it upon the Continent; and, probably, for a 
sum not inferior to a large Parliamentary re- 
ward, to which many thought it entitled. But 
upon consulting his principles he found that 
no crowned head of Europe was rich enough 
to purchase from him an advantage over the 
monarch of his own country. 

" Thus disappointed both at home and abroad, 
and reflecting that this secret may happen, 
by lying by, to be buried with him, he set 
himself to consider what to do with it, and 
hath now at length he thinks hit upon the 
best means of making it useful, and this 
method is, to pubhsh it to all the world.'' 

A century later, we may parenthetically 
presume that had the matter got so far as 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 37 

this, he would have pocketed a handsome sum 
in promotion money, and been entitled to a 
seat on the directorate, while the rest of us 
would have been inundated with prospectuses 
of the Universal Cryptogram Company, 
Limited. 

He goes on to say that " at first he 
saw several objections to this step, but they 
disappeared as soon as the following rea- 
sons presented themselves, viz. : First, that 
the Supreme Wisdom hath locked up every 
man's secrets, good and bad, in his own 
breast. Secondly, that human wisdom hath 
imitated the Supreme, by inflicting punish- 
ment on those who unlawfully break open 
secrets or letters. Thirdly, that after the pub- 
lication of this art Governments will still have 
it as much in their power as ever to suppress 
all suspected writings, while every man's busi- 
ness and private concerns shall be no further 
exposed in what he writes than he chuses. 
And this, the inventor imagines, will prove 



13^ CRYPTOGRAPHY 

of singular convenience and advantage to 
mankind, who daily suffer from the insidious 
practice of intercepting and counteracting not 
only private instructions upon lawful busi- 
ness, but even the most important dispatches 
of nations.^ 

" These are the principal reasons that deter- 
mined the author to publish this art ; but, 
still diffident of his own judgment, he hath 
made the two following observations, viz. : 
First, that in case a true representation of 
this cipher should speedily be laid before the 
king; and that his Majesty should thereupon 
be pleased to command the author to appear 
and demonstrate the properties he attributes 
to it, then will the author cheerfully obey, and 
rejoice in the honour of arming his Majesty's 
hand with so advantageous a weapon. And 
he would much rather chuse thus to devote 
this art to the particular service of his country 

^ Surely in the breast of a patriot these two should 
be transposed, and the national interest placed first. 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 39 

than to that of his fellow-creatures in general ; 
For, he is not (as some style themselves) a 
citizen of the world, nor ever will be, till 
the world becomes one city. Again, he will 
never publish this secret till he hath given 
six months' notice previously of his intention 
to do so. And, if during those six months 
gentlemen of sense and knowledge will be so 
good as to publish reasons proving that more 
evil than good will result from the publica- 
tion of this secret, then will the author resolve 
that it shall be buried with him. For he 
detests the thought of extending the catalogue 
of human ills. But, if no sufficient reasons 
to the contrary shall appear, he will then 
think it his duty to publish it without further 
delay. Query then, whether more evil or 
more good will result from such a publica- 
tion ? 

" The properties of the said Cipher. Firstly, 
it can be wrote offhand in the common 
characters. Secondly, it can be read at sight. 



140 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

Thirdly, the secrets both of writing and read- 
ing it are so simple that they can, in five 
minutes' time, be so perfectly communicated 
that the person instructed shall be able, with- 
out further help or any previous practice, 
to write offhand and read at sight as above 
set forth. Fourthly, though all the men in 
the world were perfect masters of the art of 
reading and writing this cipher, yet could any 
two of them, by agreement upon a small 
variation (to be made at will), correspond with 
impenetrable secrecy, though their letters were 
to pass open through the hands of all the 
rest. Fifthly, it is strictly impossible for all 
the art of man to read it except the reader 
be in confidence with the writer. N.B. — That 
the author thinks it may be demonstrated that 
there never hath been invented, and that it 
is impossible to invent, another cipher that 
shall not be inferior to this by many de- 
grees. 

" An invaluable advantage of this cipher, in 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING I41 

tlie hands of a prince, is that he can with 
ease and expedition write his own letters in 
it, with no necessity of exposing their con- 
tents to ciphering and deciphering clerks, first 
at home, and next abroad ; or to any person 
whatever, except the individual to whom he 
writes. Another advantage is, that a prince, 
master of it, can himself change his cipher 
every day at will, and make, at the same time, 
every variation a new cipher, absolutely im- 
penetrable even to those who are masters of 
this art, and to all human sagacity. 

" This art, if judged useful to the crown of 
these realms, should be first communicated 
to the king only : that he may be the sole 
possessor of it, and so have it in his power 
to disperse it to such of his ministers abroad 
only as his Majesty shall have occasion to 
intrust with his most important communica- 
tions. And the use of it ought to be reserved 
for such occasions, that it may be communi- 
cated to as few as possible, and so be kept 



142 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

for an arcanum imperii. It should be made 
death and total confiscation for any man to 
betray this secret communicated to them by 
the king; and to the author also, should he 
betray it after he hath given it up to his 
Majesty. 

" The toil and delays attending the best 
ciphers hitherto invented are an intolerable 
clog upon the dispatches of Courts. And we 
see, by most of the letters taken this war, 
that it hath been resolved rather to pen them 
in plain writing than to subject them to such 
ruinous delays. This cipher is exempt from 
all such toil and delay. The best ciphers 
hitherto invented and found fit for business 
are held, by the best authorities upon the 
subject, legible by an able artist. And this 
must be true : For, otherwise, princes would 
not, at a great expense, keep able decipherers. 
This cipher is, in every variation of it, im- 
pervious to all human penetration. The author 
hath never yet communicated the art of this 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 43 

cipher to any mortal; nor indeed ever will, 
except to the king only, or to mankind in 
general ; unless a dangerous sickness should 
happen to oblige him to reveal them to a select 
friend, in order to prevent them being lost 
for ever." 

Whether this were so all potent an instru- 
ment as the inventor thought must for ever 
remain a moot point, as the king evidently did 
not respond to the advances made. Parliament 
did not give the large reward hinted at, nor 
was the Limited Company ever started where- 
by the secret should be kept inviolate, as 
he himself suggested, by the whole world 
being told it. Perhaps the dangerous sick- 
ness was too rapid in its progress to allow 
the summons to the select friend, or in view of 
the realities of Eternity all mundane objects, 
even the great cipher itself, may have shrunk 
into insignificance, or a sudden accident may 
have befallen him and at once made all 
notification of his secret a thing impossible. 



144 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

However this may have been, we have the 
sufficient fact that all clue to the wondrous 
cryptogram is for ever lost. 

It was long illegal to publish the debates of 
Parliament. In the various series of the 
Gentleman's Magazine we find " Proceedings 
in the Senate of great Lilliput" running at 
considerable length all through the volumes. 
The names of the speakers are veiled, but at 
the end of the volume we have an " Analysis 
of the Names of the Hurgoes, Climabs, etc., of 
Lilliput," in which both the assumed and real 
names are given. Hurgo is a Lord, and 
Climab is a member of the House of Commons ; 
a debate therefore in which Hurgoes Castroflet, 
Shomlug, Toblat, Adonbring, and Guadrert 
spoke was really carried on by Lords 
Chesterfield, Cholmondeley, Talbot, Abingdon, 
and Cartaret. One can only wonder that 
such a very palpable evasion of the law should 
have been thus winked at. 

Eeaders of the weird tales of Edgar Allen 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 145 

Poe will recall the great use of cryjDtograplij 
in the story of " The Gold Bug," where a Mr. 
liegrancl of South Carolina becomes possessed 
of an enormous treasure ^ of gold coins of 
antique date, and great variety, one himdred 
and ten exceedingly fine diamonds, eighteen 
rubies of remarkable brilliancy, three hundred 
and ten emeralds, besides sapphires, opals un- 
countable, and all by means of an old parch- 
ment with some mysterious writing thereon. 
Should any of our readers up to this point have 
applied the cm bono argument to our book, 
this good fortune of Mr. Legrand should be a 
convincing proof of the value of a knowledge 
of cryptography ! 

The treasure in question was supposed 
to be a part of the plunderings of the notor- 
ious pirate Kidd. Half buried in the sea 
sand, in close proximity to a wreck, a piece 

^ " We estimated the entire contents of the chest at a 
million and a half of dollars, and upon the subsequent dis- 
posal of the trinkets and jewels it was found that we had 
greatly undervalued the treasure." 

K 



146 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

of parchment was found, and on this some few 
mysterious markings were noted. On the 
application of heat this parchment revealed 
some three or four lines of cryptogram, and 
the hero of the story sets himself to the task 
of its decipherment. It proves to be the clue 
to the burial place of a treasure. The direc- 
tions, duly followed, bring Legrand and two 
helpers to a particular tree in the tropic forest, 
and then at a certain distance and direction 
from this conspicuous tree a vigorous digging 
presently brings to light the massive chest 
which holds this ill-gotten wealth. The 
piratical vessel was lost and the scoundrels that 
manned it drowned, and the memorandum found 
by a mere chance on the desolate shore of 
Sullivan's Island was the means of bringing to 
knowledge the hidden booty. The story itself, 
with its weird accompaniments of skeletons, 
its midnight delvings, and so forth, can be read 
at length by those who care to hunt it up in 
any collection of Poe's works ; all that now 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 47 

concerns us is the cryptograph round Avhich 
the story turns. This also we need not set 
out in detail, as it is given in full length in the 
story. The weak point in it is that it is not 
at all the sort of cipher that a pirate captain 
would concoct, while it is exactly what a 
literary man, with an eye to the possibilities 
of the printing press, would put together* 
Thus we find the dagger (t) representing D, 
the asterisk (*) standing for N, the double 
dagger {%) being 0. The parenthesis mark, (, 
is E, and the semicolon (;) is representative of 
T. The interrogation mark (?), the Tf, and the 
colon also appear. The message commences 
in this fashion — 

53Ut305))6*;4826)4t 
The decipherment of this abstruse memor- 
andum is very well worked out in the story. 

That some people still believe in a present 
and future for cryptography is seen in the fact 
that so lately as the year 1860 was patented a 
machine for carrying on secret correspondence. 



148 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

Probably all our readers must have noticed 
on tlieir gate-posts or door-steps certain 
mysterious clialk-marks, tbe cryptographic 
symbols of the great begging fraternity, telling 
their successors what fate their appeal for 
alms may be likely to meet with. The soft- 
hearted, and perhaps a little soft-headed, 
householder who dispenses liberally and with- 
out enquiry to the bearers of every harrowing 
tale need never fear any falling off in the 
stream of applicants, since the little white 
mark on his premises will always suflfice to 
bring on a fresh inundation, while the man 
who finds (or puts) a square mark on his door 
will be free, for it is an intimation that he is 
regarded as an unfavourable subject. A circle 
with a dot in the centre guarantees complete 
immunity from these uninvited visitors, the 
immunity that naturally attaches to a man 
who is prepared to hand any sturdy vagrant 
over to the police and follow this \\\) with a 
prosecution* 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 49 

Business people often employ a kind of 
cipher for marking prices on their goods and 
samples when for some occult and mysterious 
reason it is desirable that the customer should 
be kept in the dark on the matter. We should 
have thought that when a man was prepared 
to sell a proper article at a fair price and pro- 
fit, — five shillings, for instance, — he would not 
feel any difficulty whatever in legibly marking 
it with a good wholesome five that need not 
be ashamed to look the whole world in the 
face. If for some reason more or less legiti- 
mate, he is unable to do this, all that is need- 
ful for him is to hunt up some ten-letter word 
or combination, such as smoking-cap, in which 
all the letters are different, and then the 
letters seriatim will stand for the numerals 
12 3 456789 0. With this key before us 
we see that an article marked MG/'i^ will cost 
us 27/6. 

We occasionally find the pushing business 
man breaking out as a follower of the crypto- 



150 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

graphic art with the idea of more effectually 
calling attention to his goods. An energetic 
dealer in potatoes largely circulated the follow- 
ing offer of a bag of the very best tubers to 
all who could successfully read its terms. As 
he was prepared to sell the potatoes at the 
same price to all comers, whether they read 
his cryptogram or not, the generosity of the 
offer is not quite so clear as any one labouring 
through his circular might have anticipated. 
The result would probably amuse some and 
irritate others ; but any way it would call at- 
tention to the goods, and the dealer evidently 
concluded that the balance of feeling would be 
in his favour : — 

^^ Eht otatop nam skniht retfa gnidaer siht, 
uoy 11 iw leef taht sih Hams elzzup dna ytis- 
oreneg si levon fi ton gnitseretni. Ti sekat 
emit dna ecneitap ot daer, yltneuqesnoc eht 
stcaf dluohs eb erom ylmrif detoor no ruoy 
yromem; siht si eht tcejbo ni gnitirw eseht 
wef senil, Ew hsiw uoy ot evah a gab fo ruo 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 151 

seotatop, OS taht uoy yam wonk elit eurt eulav 
fo melit, dna retfa ecno gnijrt meht, i leef erus 
uoy lliw taeper ruoy redro morf emit ot emit. 
Sa i wonk eht seotatop era doog i evali on 
noitatiseh ni gnittup erofeb iioy ym suoreneg 
reffo : yldnik drawrof xis sgnillihs dna ecnep- 
xis dna i lliw ta ecno dnes uoy eno derdnuli 
dna evlewt sdnuop fo ym tseb seotatop ! ! ! " 

It will be seen at a glance that this cipher 
is merely the ordinary words reversed in their 
spelling, and with a very little practice of 
reading the reverse way one makes it out very 
readily : " The potato man thinks after reading 
this, you will feel that his small puzzle and 
generosity is novel if not interesting. It takes 
time and patience to read, consequently the 
facts should be more firmly rooted on your 
memory : this is the object in writing these 
few lines. We wish you to have a bag of our 
potatoes, so that you may know the true value 
of them, and after once trying them I feel 
sure you will- repeat your order from time to 



r 52 CR YP TOGRA PH V 

time. As I know the potatoes are good, I 
have no hesitation in putting before jou my 
generous offer : kindly forward six shillings 
and sixpence, and I will at once send you 
one hundred and twelve pounds of my best 
potatoes ! ! ! " 

We may add parenthetically that the pota- 
toes supplied are excellent in quality, that Ave 
had pleasant experience of them long before 
and after the issue of this cryptogram,^ and that 
they are well able to stand on their merits even 
without any adventitious aid ; and the same 
remark may be made of the excellent " stick- 
fast paste," which nevertheless is advertised, 
amongst other ways, as follows : " STI OKPH 
AST PAS T EST lOKS." As one more illus- 
tration of this commercial use of cryptography, 
we may quote the following advertisement : 
"My darling, Rof tobacco og ot Nospmoht, 
ytrof evif, Kcirederf Teerts, Daetspmah Daor." 

^ And that we did not write or suggest this crypto- 
gram ! 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 153 

The process again is simple reversal, and from 
it the reader will readily learn where, if he be 
a smoker, he may find due replenishment of 
his pouch. Such trade uses of the crypto- 
gram are naturally of the simplest nature, and 
present no difficulty, as the great object is that 
the person whose eye it catches should be able 
to readily read the advertisement; to puzzle 
and baulk him would frustrate the whole in- 
tention of the thing. 

We have now travelled throughout the cen- 
turies from Julius Caesar and Herodotus to the 
vendors of potatoes and the makers of paste 
in this present year of grace ; from the victors 
of Naseby, the fugitives of Culloden, to the 
shopkeeper of the Hampstead Koad. Our 
rapid review of these hundreds of years has 
not been, we trust, without int'Crest, and it will 
at least have shown that the subject has been 
held of great importance, that it has taken its 
part in making history, and in the rise and fall 
of great causes, and that it is something more 



154 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

and better than a mere shield to the knave or 
the veiled appeal of the love-struck swain in 
the columns of the newspaper. 




Frcx. 15. 



We turn now to the practical consideration 
of divers systems of cryptographic commvini- 
cation, and tlie first of these is that known as 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 155 

the "grille." It is a very good method for 
short communications. The sender and re- 
ceiver are each in possession of a similar piece 
of cardboard, and this cardboard is pierced with 
openings at irregular intervals. The sender 
then writes his message through these open- 
ings on to a piece of plain paper that is placed 
beneath. He then removes the grille/ and fills 
up the rest of the paper with any other letters 
or words that occur to him as being calculated 
to throw any unauthorized third person off 
the scent. The receiver merely places on the 
communication his duplicate grille, and reads 
the message, all superfluous material being to 
him no distraction, since it is hidden by the 
unpierced portion of his card. Sometimes the 
essential message is veiled by the addition to 
it of other words that transform it into an 
entirely innocent-looking affair; but this is 
very difficult to do properly. Any indication 

^ In France, Le chassis or la grille ; in Germany, Nciz 
or Gitten. 



156 



CRYPTOGRAPHY 



of halting composition or the introduction of 
any conspicuous word at once attracts attention 



i iCdi iMEi 


... 


1 '-...J ... -L„.»-^«».«- 


^"^ ~ 


isol [Ojli i 


^si "N 


'..-.. i. ....!.-.. »L.....J....- 




wfj L...J.OS! 


"sii bQ 


, 1 .L. 1 X 1 


'"'-""r'*""' !"•"*"» 


\ iVq ;A|^ 


jqLI... 


llOi iU ; iT 


I L L J 



Fig. 16. 



and arouses suspicion. " I " and " for '' and 
**with" are easy enough; but if the message 
runs, " I send five hundred rifles for immediate 



OR, CIFHER-WRiriNG 1 57 

distribution, with necessary ammunition," it 
would require an enormous amount of ingen- 
uity to so wrap round "rifles" and "ammuni- 
tion " with innocent padding as to make the 
message read as though it were merely an 
invitation for lunch and lawn tennis. It is, 
therefore, better to face the fact boldly that 
the message is imdoubtedly of a secret nature, 
and then leave the objectionable third per- 
son to get such comfort as he can out of it. 
Fig. 15 shows the pierced card that the sender 
uses, and of which the receiver holds an exact 
duplicate. Fig. 16 represents the message, 
" Come as soon as you possibly can to Louth," 
as it appears to the receiver when the grille is 
placed upon it; while Fig. 17 is how it looks 
when dispatched, and how it reads to any un- 
authorized and grille-less person. The dotted 
lines on Figs. 15 and 10 are of course only put 
that the reader may trace more readily the 
connection between the different squares : they 
are of no use in the actual transmission. 



158 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

If, however, we did not care to risk sending 
the grille by post or messenger, the second per- 
son in the transaction could readily make one 

VIGOR IVjEF^I C^STO 

soREoHic p/\syLyo 

UpilI^NOSP SiHeBL 

rLyc \t^v ToLoic 

LofTU EST rVh IE 



Fig. 17. 



for himself or herself, as it Avould only be 
necessary to know which squares in each 
row were pierced. In the top row of the pre- 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 159 

sent arrangement we see that these are the 
second, fourth, and seventh. If then we 
take the first figure to indicate the number of 
the row, and the others to be the openings, 
a nought indicating the end of each row, it 
would be easy to send a formula by which five 
hundred miles away a duplicate grille, could be 
made. It would in the present case nm as 
foUows: 124703146802136804246051357. We 
have not taken the rows in regular sequence, as 
the following of 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 in order after 
the noughts might suggest an idea to this 
troublesome third person; but this is entirely 
immaterial; the different rows are there all 
the same. 

If we have a suspicion that our grille, is 
known, all that would be necessary would be 
to turn it upside down, the old bottom edge 
being now the top one. This at once throws 
the squares into a new sequence, and gives us 
a fresh start. 

In Figs. 18, 19, and 20 we have a somewhat 



l6o CR YPTOGRAPH Y 

similar contrivance, the " revolving grille," 
though it is perhaps still more puzzling. The 
grille this time has certain openings made in it 



'o 


o 




o " 


o 


o 


o 


o 


o 


o 






c 






o 

D 



Fig. 18. 



(of course we need scarcely pause to say 
that their shape, round or square, is a very 
minor point. Sometimes it would be easier to 
cut a square hole, and sometimes to punch a 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 



i6i 



round one) ; but these openings do not, as in 
the previous example, at once suffice for the 
whole message. To use this grille, we first 




Fig. 19. 

place the card so that the edge AB is upper- 
most, and in these openings we place as many 
letters as they will take. We then, still keep- 
ing our under paper in the same position 

L 



l62 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

turn the grille so tliat BD is the upper edge, 
and in these new blanks go on writing our 
message until these in turn are filled. We 
then turn the card until DC is the upper edge, 
and proceed as before, and finally we give it 
one more turn and bring the edge OA to the 
top. The ten openings of Fig. 18 thus give 
us in rotation forty openings, as we see in 
Fig. 19. The result is a very hopeless-looking 
mixture of letters, the effect we get in Fig. 
20. This Fig. 20 is the communication as the 
sender dispatches it, as the receiver gets it, 
and as it appears to all who may see it. To 
reduce this chaos to full legibility, the receiver 
takes his duplicate grille and places it, AB 
uppermost, on the message, and through its 
ten openings he reads "urgent need." He 
then turns the grill until BD is the top edge, 
and the openings now read " only hold ou." 
The next turn, DO, tells him " t another we," 
and the final shift of the card to CA as its 
upper edge reveals now " ck at most JP," and 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 63 

the whole warning stands clearly before him : 
" Urgent need, only hold out another week at 
most. — J.P." Fig. 19 is merely added to show 
how the forty openings made by the revolution 



U . 


R 


N 


C E 


I- E 


N 


K 

T 


A. N 


^ Y 
E 


E 


T 


w. 


H 



L 

T 
U 


H 


N 


R 


T 


W 


P E 



Fig. 20. 



of the ten group themselves : the essential figures 
are Figs. 18 and 20, being the grille used for 
the message, and the resulting message itself. 



l64 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

We have already in Fig. 9 shown what 
is technically called the " ladder " cipher, a. 
form made by slipping a card along, and we 
now have in Fig. 21 another arrangement 
based on mnch the same principle, though it 
works out somewhat differently. To make 
this form, the " slip -card," we take a long thin 
slip of cardboard, and then we cut two long 
longitudinal slits in it, so as to about divide 
the card into three equal portions. On the 
centre portion we place the letters of the 
alphabet in their regular everyday sequence. 
We then get a broader piece of card and slip 
this in the slits on the first strijD. This second 
card is divided into squares, and in these 
squares we place the letters in any irregular 
way we choose, being only careful that every 
letter shall appear somewhere in the length of 
column one, and ditto in the case of all the 
other columns. About four of these columns 
will suffice. We now slip the paper along, 
and place any one of these columns alongside 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 



165 



tlie alphabet on tlie thin 
tinned to nse this cohimn, 
it might gradually become 
evident to any outsider 
what letter stood 'for A 
or E, and so on ; but we 
can shift the card as often 
as we like during the 
making up of our mes- 
sage, so that E is no 
longer always C, for ex- 
ample, but at the next 
shift will be D, and then 
presently it is T, and so 
on. The shifting must 
be intimated to the re- 
ceiver, or the message 
will all at once go chaotic 
to him, so that at the 
changing point we must 
indicate by its proper 
number what column we 



strip. If we con- 





1. 
D 


2 


3 

F 


4- 

B 


C 


L 


H 


N 


N 


P 


L 


Q 


T 


S 


Y 


A 


C 


D 


T 


H 


u 


Y 


B 


Q 


K 


Q 


S 


F 





T 


N 


L 


z 


B 


a 


U 


A 


H 


u 


E 


V 


M 


X 


P 


E 


Z 


w 


V 


H 


w 


A 


S 


P 


V 


z 


w 


L 


k 


M 


Y 


B 


X 


\ 


D 


W 


E 


P 


X 


X 


T? 


C 


K 


ivi 


U 


Q 


H 


"R 


I 


V 


IV\ 


F 


N 


E 





1 


C 


K 


Z 


Q 


F 





I 


S 


K 


K 


T 


Y 





D 


C 



Fig. 21. 



l66 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

have changed to. These numbers would be 1 , 
2, 3, and 4, the others, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, being used 
as blinds and non- significants, or to separate 
words. 

If then we desired to seiid the warning, '^ If 
you do not return at once it will be too late," it 
might read, ZU6SPR9TP6HPM2EDmEW8a 
U6VWPD3GQ8KGXX6HT5QZZXFQT. The 
message here begins with column one, at two 
changes to the second column, and at three to 
the third. 

Figures are at times employed in lieu of 
letters. It would, of course, be a great deal too 
obvious that A should be 1, and B 2, and so 
on ; but we may make matters a little more 
complicated by letting the figures run in the 
reverse direction, A being 26, B being 25, and 
so forth, but still this too presents very little 
difficulty. The following message appeared in 
the Times of September 7th, 1866 : — 

" 1. 2. 9.— 15 22 7, 14 22, 8 22 13 23, 24 12 9 9 22 8 ] 1 
12 13 23 22 13 24 22, 4 18 7 19, 9 22 24 7 12 9, 12 21, 24 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 167 

12 15 15 22 20 22, 11 7, 4 18 15 15, 22 3 11 15 26 18 13, 
19 12 4, 7 19 18 13 20 8, 8 7 26 13 23, 18, 20 12, 26 25 9 
12 26 23, 13 22 3 7, 14 12 13 7 19." 

As the matter is now over thirty years old 
there can be no objection to pointing out that 
if we practise this simple reversal, the result 
stands forth as " X Y E,. Let me send corre- 
spondence with rector of College; it will ex- 
plain how things stand. I go abroad next 
month." Apart from the simplicity of its 
construction, this cipher is faulty in having 
always the same equivalent for each letter, and 
in being cub up by commas into words. These 
are points that greatly aid decipherment. The 
numbers too, never running beyond twenty- 
six, naturally suggest that they are the letters 
of the alphabet. 

Figure alphabets were very commonly used, 
as we have seen, in the Stuart times. The 
best arrangement is where each consonant is 
represented by two combinations of figures, 
and the vowels by still more. It is better, too, 



l68 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

not to employ single figures, such as 3 or 5 
or 8, but to always take doubles, like 22 or 57. 
The message then runs continuously : there is 
no need to comma off the words, and every 
pair of figures stands for one letter. Should 
it at any time be suspected that the clue is 
found, an almost impossible thing, a re-shifting 
of the numbers is readily effected. 

The following may be taken as an illustra- 
tion : — 

A. 21, 63, 95, 70. J. 37, 46. 

13. 26, 27. K. 90, 64. 

C. 31, 52. L. 32, 36. 

D. 83. 65. M. 72, 98. 

E. 41, 80, 34, 25. K 77, m. 

F. 68, 28. 0. 42, 49, 56, 23. X. 67, 96. 

G. 29, 40. P. 47, 50. Y. 89, 97. 
H. 22, 30. Q. 33, 57. Z. 24, 45. 
I. 62, 91, 86, 92. E. 69, 39. 

This is the sender's list ; the receiver's key 
would have the figures first, and then the 
figures they represent. This latter would be 
as follows : — 



s. 


48, 


35. 






T. 


82, 


58. 






U. 


43, 


71, 


93, 


51 


Y. 


61, 


76. 






W.33, 


81. 







OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 69 



21. 


A. 


30. 


H. 


39. 


R. 


49. 


0. 


63. 


A. 


72. 


M. 


90. 


K. 


22. 


H. 


31. 


C. 


40. 


G. 


50. 


P. 


64. 


K. 


"S. 


V. 


91. 


I. 


23. 


0. 


32. 


L. 


41. 


E 


51. 


U. 


65. 


D. 


77. 


N. 


92. 


I. 


24. 


Z. 


33. 


W. 


42. 


0. 


52. 


c. 


m. 


N. 


80. 


E. 


93. 


U. 


25. 


E. 


34. 


E. 


43. 


U. 


56. 


0. 


67. 


X. 


81. 


W. 


95. 


A. 


26. 


B. 


35. 


S. 


45. 


Z. 


57. 


Q. 


^^. 


F. 


82. 


T. 


96. 


X. 


27. 


B. 


36. 


L. 


46. 


J. 


58. 


T. 


69. 


R. 


83. 


D. 


97. 


Y. 


28. 


F. 


37. 


J. 


47. 


P. 


61. 


V. 


70. 


A. 


^^. 


I. 


98. 


M. 


29. 


G. 


38. 


Q. 


48. 


s. 


62. 


I. 


71. 


U. 


89. 


Y. 







This, it will be noted, sets free 11, 12, 13, 14, 
15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 44, 53, 54, 55, 59, 60, 
73, 74, 75, 78, 79, 84, 85, 87, 88, 94, and 99 
for use for any special purpose, such as names 
of people and places, or anything of such con- 
stant occurrence that it would be an advan- 
tage to be able to express it by two figures 
instead of the twelve that would otherwise be 
necessary to spell out London, or the twenty 
that Parliament would require. Twenty- seven 
pairs of figures are thus set free as symbols 
for anything that may be decided upon be- 
tween sender and receiver. 

Any one sending a dispatch by this code uses 
any figures he likes from those standing to the 



170 CR YPTOGRAPHY 

letter he Avants ; L, for instance, being either 
32 or 36, while the receiver, glancing down his 
key-list, sees that either 32 or 36 are equally 
L. The prying would-be decipherer is thus at 
once thrown off the scent. He knows, for in- 
stance, that double L is a rather common 
termination ; but when the same letter is repre- 
sented sometimes by one pair of figures and 
sometimes by another, he cannot find this 
double L. " Shall,^' for example, would read 
48223236 or 35303632. He knows, too, tliat 
E is the commonest of all the letters ; but when 
it may be 41, or 80, or 34, or 25, his chance of 
detecting it is but small. 

As our readers have the key before them, we 
hand over to them the following message for 
decipherment : 224247412680627769239834823 
043393565218933344190. 

By the old method called the " Mirabeau " 
the alphabet is divided into five rows of five 
letters each, marked from one to five, and 
each letter of these rows is also thus 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 11 \ 

marked. C, for instance, would be the third 
letter in the first five, and would therefore 
be o, while I would be the fourth letter 
of the second group of five, and would 
therefore be t. In practice, however, this 
regular alphabetical arrangement would be 
discarded as being too tell-tale. The figures 
6, 7, 8, 9, are all non-significants, and the 
receiver of the message would merely run his 
pen through them. The number of the row is 
written as the numerator of these fraction-like 
symbols, while the lower number is the posi- 
tion of the particular letter in the row. A 
good workable code would be as follows : — 
1 QGALY; 2 DHNRX; 3 BIMSY; 
4 PKFUZ; 5 EOTWC. " Consfcantinople " 
by this code would read as follows : — 

57523^512 ^3J 5 4 1^ 
5 2 3 49 3 3 83 390 1 38 2 10 4 YT 

This is a very good system. It will be seen 
that it gives good scope for varying the sym- 
bols of individual letters; thus the thrice 



172 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

occurring N of this word is each time repre- 
sented bj a quite different symbol. As an 
exercise in the same key we hand over the 
following to the consideration of our students 
of cryptography : — 

4 29 4 38 27 47 18 3 17 1 i9 4' 

Yet another numerical method is that of 
Count Grousfield. For this any three figures 
are taken, as, for example, 431. The message 
is then written out roughly by the sender, and 
these figures placed over each letter in the 

43 14 314314 31 43 

following way : Come at once to us 
We now proceed to write out our message for 
dispatch, but instead of using C we use the 
fourth letter from it ; instead of we employ 
the third letter from it, and instead of M the 
first letter from it, while for E we recompience 
by taking in its stead the fourth letter in the 
alphabet from it. Our message would there- 
fore read GRNI DU SQDI WP YV. Here 
again it will be seen that the same symbol is 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 73 

not always associated witli the same letter. 
Thus the twice recurring C is in one part of 
our communication represented by Gr, and in 
another by D, while the threefold is E, or S, 
or P, in different parts of the message. Of 
course, if we took 513 as the recurring num- 
ber, the letters we introduced into our crypto- 
gram would be in regular sequence the fifth, 
first, and third from the true ones, and there 
is, we need scarcely say, no special virtue in 
grouping the figures in threes, the key might 
as readily be composed of four or five. Thus 
we might, for example, use 31042, and our 

3104 23 1042 

message would then read, Come at once 

3 1 ^4 

to us, the cryptogram based on this key 
being, FPMI CW PNGG WP UW. The 
following statement, based on the key of 2130, 
we pass on to our readers: KM-HSV-FQCQSH- 
CJFC-LWJ. The system is a very simple 
and good one, the key being of so easy a 
nature to remember or to transmit. 

In some ciphers the real letters are em- 



174 



CRYPTOGRAPHY 



ployed, but they only reveal tlieir meaning 
when read in some special way : left to 
right, and then the next right to left, up- 
wards, or downwards, or diagonally. They 
are ordinarily, however, not difficult of detec- 



T 


I 





E 


F S 


P \ E 


C 


N 


C E 


P 


S 


F 


E 


c 


I 


T 


I 


C 


E 


F 


s 1 P 


E 1 C 


N 


I 


N C 


E 


P 


S 


F 


E 


C 


I 


C 


E 


F 


S 


P 1 E 


1 N 


I 


R 


I|N 


C 


E 


P 


S 


F 


B 


c 


E 


F 


s 


P 


E C 


N 1 I 


R 


P 


R 1 I 


N 





E 


P 


S 


F 


E 


F 


S 


P 


B 


1 N 


I R 


P 





P R 


I 


N 


C 


E 


P 


S 


F 


S 


P 


E 


c 


N|I 


r| P 





I^ 


1 P 


R 


I 


N 





E 


P 


s 


P 


E 


C 


N 


I|R 


P 


L 


I 


L 


P 


« 


I 


N 





E 


P 


E 


C 


N 


I 


R P 


1 L 


I 


s 


I ! L 





P 


R 


I 


N 


C 


E 


P 


E 


C 


N 


I|B 


P 


L 


I 


L 


P 


R 


T 


N 





E 


P 


S 


P 


E 


C 


N I 


R P 


O 


L 


o|p 


B 


I 


N 


C 


E 


P 


S 


F 


S 


P 


E 


C N 


I R 


P 





P R 


I 


N 


c 


E 


P 


S 


F 


E 


F 


S 


P 


E j C 


N I 


R 


P 


R 


I 


N 


C 


E 


P 


s 


F 


E 


C 


E 


F 


S 


P 1 E 


1 N 


I 


R 


I N 


c 


E 


P 


S 


F 


E 


C 


I 


C 


E 


F 


S \ P 


E 1 C 


N 


I 


N C 


E 


P 


S 


F 


B 


C 


I 


T 


I 





E 


F S 


P 1 E 


C 


N 


1 E 


P 


B 


F 


E 


C 


I 


T 



Fig. 22. 

tion, and we need scarcely pause to give 
more than one example of them.^ A better 

^ In this illustration, Fig. 22, taken from a monu- 
ment in an old Spanish church, the inscription " Silo 
princeps fecit" can be read in over two hundred dif- 
ferent ways, starting from the central S. 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 



175 



way is to wrap tlie letters up amongst 
divers non-significants, and resting on some 
sucli simple key as that the letters of the 
message shall be those that follow anything 
that begins or ends with S. All suspicious- 



ABC 

4 


DEF 

7 


Chi 
3 


JK,L 

5 


MNO 
1 


PQf\ 


STU 

2 


V\A/\ 

s 


Vz 



Fig. 23. 



looking words should be well broken up. In 
the following illustration we have taken the 
intimation, "I will be up in London to- 
morrow"; and to make it clearer to our 
readers, we have put the message itself in 



176 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

a different type — tlioiigli tliat is, of course, 
in practice, tlie very last thing we should 
do — si % tels ivi fet so II sigh he o sigh ii 
far sign p has in smu lo peps ndo ri s n 
see iomo ss rr ped sip ow ex. 

The arrangement seen in Fig. 23 has some- 
times been employed, and as it is one fairly 
good system the more to add to our store, 
we give details of it. At the same time, it 
is by no means so good as some of the 
others we have dwelt on. A square is 
drawn, and each face of it is divided into 
three equal parts. From these lines are so 
drawn that the big square is subdivided into 
nine small ones. In the first of these we 
place ABC, in the second D E F, in the 
third GrHI, and so on in regular sequence, 
until all our squares are lettered. We then 
place, also in each square, any one number 
from one to nine, disposing them in an en- 
tirely irregular and casual way. In our 
present example it will be seen that these 



ORy CIPHER-WRITING 111 

numbers run as follows: 4.7.3.8.1.5.2.9.6. In 
this key a plain 4 stands for A, a once- 
dotted 4 for B, and a twice-dotted 4 for C, 
and so on all through. South Kensington 



WTL 


HSV 


m 


m 


BO 


KU 


(XZ 


PDY 


WE 



tL&dEIFliilH 
fe|]lE3SO 
biPim^iFIIIl 



jij 

ml 



Fig. 24. 

Museum would by this system appear as 
2i223087i23i32ii0122721. In sending the 
key it would only be necessary to send 473 
815296, as the receiver would then place the 
alphabet in the nine squares he would thus 

M 



lyS CRYPTOGRAPHY 

number. If any treachery or underhand 
work were suspected, one would merely sub- 
stitute 965213874, or any other fresh com- 
bination. 

If two persons provide themselves with a 
copy each of the same edition of a good 
dictionary, they may be able to communicate 
with each other in cryptogrammic fashion, 
though the method is only available for 
fairly common words, and is of no use for 
proper names. The method is to write down 
not the word itself, but whatever word one 
finds a certain number of places back or for- 
ward. Thus, desiring to send off the warn- 
ing, '' Get away soon as you can," we use, 
instead of these words, those that we find 
in our dictionary three places behind them. 
So that our message reads, " Gesticulator 
awakening sonneteer artless yolk camphor." 

The system shown in Fig. 23 is ingenious, 
and so is that shown in Fig. 13; but we 
have in thinking them over devised our- 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 179 

selves a combination of the two, to which we 
will giv^o the name of the Newark crypto- 
gram, that we think is an improvement on 
both. For the dots of Figs. 13 and 23 we 
have substituted lines, as being somewhat 
clearer and more definite. It seems to us 
that it is rather a weak point in Fig. 23 
that the second letter has one dot and the 
third two. In Fig. 24, the Newark, we have 
got rid of the X-like cross of Fig. 13, and 
have grouped our letters into threes, as in - 
Fig. 23, the odd space over being given to 
a second E. Having got, as in Fig. 13, 
various arrangements of right angles, the one, 
two, or three lines may be disposed in them 
in any direction we please. The six charac- 
ters in the vertical column are all, for in- 
stance, variations of the letter L, though they 
all agree in the essentials in having the right 
angle, and within it three lines. By this 
method, therefore, with a little ingenuity, we 
need scarcely repeat any form, and we may 



1 80 CR YPTOGRAPH Y 

get the twenty-six letters of our alphabet 
represented by over two hundred different 
symbols. W being the first letter, is repre- 
sented by one line, T by two lines, and L, 
the third letter, by three lines ; all being 
represented within a right angle of the same 
direction. F is the first letter, and there- 
fore one-lined ; N the second, and therefore 
two- lined ; R the third letter, and therefore 
three-lined, in a right angle of the reverse 
direction. 

In Fig. 25 we have a representation of the 
" clock-hands " cipher. It is less effective as 
a cryptogram than some of the methods that 
have preceded it, since all its values are con- 
stant — the same forms always representing 
the same letters, except in the case of the 
threefold E — and therefore rendering it more 
easy of analysis and ultimate detection. One 
great advantage of it is that the forms are 
60 simple in character and so distinctive : it 
is, therefore, a very easy cipher to write or 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING l8l 

read. The dots are absolutely meaningless, 
and are merely put at random as blinds. 
The intimation given beneath the alphabet 
in Fig. 25 is as follows: "Clock-hand cipher 
is simple in character." 

\}JVLLl\S\^\\VrA 

ABCDEE^FCHiJKL 

A)v<r^m-/w\i 

MM 0PQR5TUVWXV Z 

JAyJF\\)VJK{\C\\\} 

Fig. 25. 

The " two word " cipher is a very good 
one, the same letter being represented by 
different characters. To work this out, we 
take any two words of reasonable length and 
place them, one along the upper edge of a 
series of ruled squares and the other down 



l82 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

one side. In these squares we place the let- 
ters of the alphabet in regular sequence until 
all the squares are filled. The words (see 
Fig. 26) that we have selected are " ordinarily 
thoughtful " ; this, therefore, will mean ten 
squares wide and ten deep, one hundred 
squares altogether : so that we get the aljoha- 
bet repeated in full three times, and only 
•four letters short of a fourth. We see now, 
by referring to E, that it may be either NT, 
OU, RH, or DU, while double S would be 
LH, NGr, OF, or RL at pleasure. Of course, 
by taking more squares still — that is to say, 
longer key-words — still more combinations 
could be made, but the present number is 
really ample. There is no necessity that the 
two key-words should be of equal number 
of letters. " Ordinary thought " would have 
given us fifty-six squares, and that would 
have meant that the alphabet would have 
come twice over, and a few letters thrice. 
It is by no means necessary that the key 



OR, CIPHER^WRITING 183 

letters should be words at all; one miglit 
simply adopt any chance arrangement of letters 
in their place. The words are only useful as 






R 


D 


1 


N 


A 


R 


1 


L 


Y 


A 


B 


C 


D 


E 


F 


C 


H 


1 


J 


K 


L 


M 


N 





P 


Q 


R 


S 


T 


U 


V 


W 


X 


Y 


Z 


A 


B 


c 


D 


E 


F 


Q 


H 


1 


J 


K 


L 


M 


N 





P 


Q 


R 


S 


T 


U 


V 


W 


X 


Y 


Z 


A 


B 


C 


D 


E 


F 


c 


H 


1 


J 


K 


L 


M 


N 





P 


Q 


R 


S 


T 


u 


V 


W 


X 


Y 


Z 


A 


B 


C 


D 


E 


F 


C 


H 


1 


J 


K 


L 


M 


N 





P 


Q 


R 


S 


T 


U 


V 



T 
H 

U 

c 

H 
T 

F 
U 
L 



Fig. 26. 



being easily remembered should the key be 
mislaid and a new one have to be made. It 
makes transmission of the key easy also. If 



l84 CRYPTOGRAPHY 

we send to our correspondent the words 
*' ordinarily thoughtful " on a post- card, no 
suspicion is aroused, and he at once proceeds 
to make his key, so many squares wide and 
so many deep, and then fills them in with 
the letters of the alphabet. Each real letter 
of the message is represented by two letters 
in the cryptogram; so that the receiver, on 
getting the message, takes a pencil and pro- 
ceeds to cut up the communication at each 
pair of letters with a little upright line, and 
then, by the aid of his key, translate it into 
ordinary wording. The specimen message we 
append is, " Hope to be with you by Tues- 
day "—ITNHRGDU YHOG ETOU LGNU- 
AGIT RFETDFOT IHRF YHRGRHLHIT- 
RORF. The same message might be given 
in quite different characters; thus the "hope" 
might equally well have been lUOGILNT. 
Whether there be such a thing as an abso- 
lutely indecipherable cipher one cannot say, 
but this " two word " combination must come 



OR, CIPHER-WRITING 1 85 

sufficiently near that ideal for all practical 
purposes. 

The subject is by no means exhausted, but 
enough has been brought forward, we trust, 
to justify in the first place our plea for the 
historic interest of cryptography, while the 
examples we have given are a testimony to 
the abundant ingenuity that the art has 
called forth. While the art of secret w^rit- 
ing may be turned to the basest uses, to 
many it should be a source of innocent re- 
creation and an ingenious form of puzzledom ; 
while its value in time of peril is such that 
a knowledge of it may save hundreds of 
lives, or avert catastrophe from the nation 
itself. 



INDEX 



*' So essential did I consider an Index to be to every 
book, that 1 proposed to bring a Bill into Parliament 
to deprive any author who published a book -without an 
Index of the privilege of copyright, and, moreover, to 
subject him to a pecuniary penalty." — CamphelVs ^^ Lives 
of the Chief Justices of England.^' 



A. 

" A and B " cipher of Lord 
Bacon, 103. 

Abbreviated advertise- 
ments, 131. 

Abbreviation of inscrip- 
tions, 64, 65. 

"According to Cocker," 133. 

^neas Tacitus as a crypto- 
grapher, 24. 

" Agony columns " of the 



newspapers. 



129. 



Alfred the Great, secret 

alphabet of, 26, 68. 
Alum as a writing material, 

39. 
Arbitrary characters as 

ciphers, 61, 105. 
Archimedes, writing round 

stick, 47, 



" Ars Scrihendi Character- 

is;' the, 62. 
Astronomy, perverted in its 

aim, 12. 



B. 



Backs of slaves a writing 
surface, 53. 

Bacon, a cryptographic 
enthusiast, 101. 

Beads and precious stones 
ciphers, 96. 

Bracelet alphabet, how 
made, 96. 

Brass, writing upon in- 
visibly, 46. 

Business ciphers for mark- 
ing goods, 149. 



187 



i88 



INDEX 



C. 

Camden Society, reproduc- 
tions by, 76. 

" Century of Inventions," 
the, 82, 94 

*' Characterie," early book 
on shorthand, 63. 

Charlemagne as a crypto- 
grapher, 26. 

Charles I. a great believer 
in cipher, 68, 71. 

Chemicals, use of, in v^^rit- 
ing, 55. 

Chemistry, a good or evil 
as used, 12. 

Cherry juice as a writing 
material, 40. 

Chinese characters, 19, 77. 

Chloride of cobalt as a 
writing material, 57. 

Citron juice for secret writ- 
ing, 39, 46. 

Clarendon's " History of the 
Kebellion," 69. 

"Clock-hands" form of 
cipher, 180. 

Cocker's Arithmetic, cipher 
in, 133. 

Coinage, abbreviations on, 
65. 

Colours expressed by lines, 
98. 

Conrad us on art of de- 
cipherment, 115. 



Cooper, Mr., as a decipher- 
ing expert, 77, 79. 

Copper, writing invisibly 
upon, 46. 

Correspondence captured at 
Naseby, 69. 

Count Grousfield's cipher, 
172. 

" Cryptograjphia denudata,'^ 
the. 

Crystal, art of writing on, 
42. 

D. 

Dactylogy or finger-talk, 

16. 
Decipherment, the art of, 

76, 103, 109. 
Delight in the mysterious, 

14. 
Derivation of cryptography, 

11. 
Dictionary cryptogram ,178. 
Disappearing writing, 44. 
Double letters in constant 

use. 111, 170. 
Dr. Dee, the labours of, 29. 
Drugging the message- 
bearer, 53. 
Dummy characters inserted, 

71. 
Dust or soot as a medium, 

41. 
Dutch three-letter words, 

119, 120. 



INDEX 



189 



E. 

Eggs, conveying messages 

by, 43. 
Egyptian hieroglyphics, 18. 
English three-letter words, 

120. 
E, the commonest English 

letter, 75, 110, 122. 

F. 

Fig-tree juice as an ink, 42. 
Flashing mirrors as signals, 

16. 
Flight of James II., 82. 
French in the family circle, 

19. 
French Revolution, the, 14. 

a. 

Galls, use of, in writing, 
88. 

" Gentleman's Magazine," 
reference to, 115, 134. 

Glass, secret writing upon, 
42. 

Goats' fat as writing ma- 
terial, 39. 

" Gold Bug " of Poe, crypto- 
gram in, 145. 

Grape juice as an ink, 40. 

Greek letters during Indian 
Mutiny, 20. 

"Grille" form of crypto- 
gram, 155. 



Gum arabic and gum tra- 
gacanth, 42. 

H. 

Head of slave as writing 

surface, 25, 52. 
Heraldic use of lines for 

colours, 98. 
Herodotus as an authority, 

24. 
Hidden, not necessarily 

secret, 25. 
Hieroglyphics not ciphers, 

18. 
" History of the Rebellion," 

Clarendon, 69. 
Human voice shut up in 

tube, 16. 
Hurgoes and Climabs in 

Parliament, 144. 



Inks, chemical, for writing, 

55. 
Inscription in country 

church, 75. 



J. 

Jangling of bells as a 

signal, 16, 95. 
Juniper juice as writing 

material, 39. 



190 



INDEX 



K. 

Kidd's treasure cliest dis- 
covered, 145. 

" Knotted string " alj^lia- 
bet, 95. 



*' Ladder " form of cipher, 
164. 

Legitimate use of crypto- 
graphy, 13. 

" Les Notes occultes des 
Lettres;' 33. 

" Lexicon Bijplomaticum ,' 
the, 64. 

Litharge, its use in secret 
writing, 39. 

M. 

Marquis of Worcester's 

book, 82, 94. 
Mary Queen of Scots' use 

of cipher, 82. 
xVia^ marks, their use, QQ. 
Message wrapped round 

ruler, 47. 
"Mirabeau" form of cipher, 

170. 
" Monas Hieroglyphica " of 

Dee, 30. 

N. 
Naseby, battle of, 69, 70. 
" Natural Magick " of 
Porta, 33. 



" Newark " form of ciphei-, 

179. 
Nitrate of silver, use of, 

50. 
"Noughts and crosses "form 

of cipher, 125. 
Nulles, or non-significants, 

72, 97, 110, 133. 
Numbers, use of, in ciphers, 

72, 78, 104, 166, 172. 

O. 

Objections to study of cryp- 
tography, 12. 

0, largely used in Italian 
and Spanish, 110, 123. 

" One and two " form of 
cryptogram, 104. 

Onion juice as an invisible 
medium, 39, 58. 

Orange juice as writing 
material, 39, 46. 



Papal Inquisition, victims 

of the, 43. 
Pepys, the Diary of, 63. 
Pharamond, a cryptograph- 

ist, 26. 
Pigeons as message-bearers, 

52. 
Poe's use of cipher in story, 

145. 
Polygraphia or Stegano- 

graph ia, 27. 



INDEX 



191 



Soot or dasfc revealing 



Porta on cipher writing, | Smell, sense of, used, 94. 
28,33. 

Potatoes as subject for 
cipher, 150. 

Publication of Parlia- 
mentary debates, 144. 



messages, 41. 



i *' Standard," advertisement 
from, 129. 
Steam engine, germ of the, 
: 83. 

I Steganographia, 27. 
Rawlinson on Sheshach, ^ stick-fast paste in cipher, 



R. 



21. 



152. 



"Revolving disk" cipher, | g^jck, message wrapped 



80, 110. 



round, 47. 



Revolving grille " cipher, j String, message by means 



160 

Ribbon messages, 95 
" Ring " cipher, 87. 



of, 99. 
Suetonius, early use of 
cipher, 24. 



Royalist and Parliamen- | Sulphate of copper as an 



tarian, 14. 
"Rule" form of cipher, 87, i 
92 



ink, 57. 
Symbolism of action, 15. 



Scythian message to Per- Taste, sense of, used, 94. 



sians, 15. 



Telegram-English, 61 



Sheshach as a cryptogram. The, the commonest Eng- 



20. 



lish word. 111. 



Shop prices in cipher, 149. "Times," advertisement 



Shorthand, early books on, 
62, 63. 



from, 129, 130, 166. 
Tramps and their signs, 148. 



" Siglarium Bomanum,^^ the, ; Trithemius, cryptograph- 



64. 



ist, 28, 104. 



Sinking of ships signal ' Tudor period, great use of 



II 



code, 69. 
" Slip -cord " form of cryp- 
togram, 164. 



cipher, 68. 
"Two-word " cipher, nature 
of, 181. 



19: 



INDEX 



Tyronian symbols, 62. 



Verney, Sir Ralph, cipher 

of, 76. 
Victims of the Inquisition, 

43. 
Vinegar and vitriol as 

inks, 37, 41,58. 



Vowels, the commonest 
letters, 111. 

W. 

Watch-fire signals, 16. 
Waxed tablets, use of, 24, 25. 
Weapon of the ill-disposed, 

12. 
Writers on cryptography, 

27. 



Cutler & Tanner, The Sehvood Printing Works, Fromc, and London. 



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